The Spirit of Teaching (A Journey)
by Carlene Harwick
Originally Published Fall 2002
Breath, soul, life, distinguished as apart from the body. The
motivating, the thinking, conscious thought. Enthusiasm, mind,
intelligence, a divine animating influence or inspiration. These are
the definitions found when trying to define 'spirit'.
A spirit within us stirs when we pick up a needle, various wonderful
threads, and colors of canvas or linen. We begin to 'paint' with our
threads and determine textures through our choice of stitches to
interpret either a painted canvas, a chart or our own designs.
Some would probably call what we do a 'passion'. The definition of
this word has its positives and negatives, but we are discussing only
the 'positives' -- joy, love, excitement, enthusiasm and also
fondness for an object. In general, passion usually implies a
strong emotion that has an overpowering or compelling effect. Our
object is, of course, needlework.
Several decades ago, a spirit grabbed me and a passion for needlework
took over. When I began teaching, another slightly more insidious spirit
invaded my mind and soul. I wouldn't want to say 'possessed' as I wish
to think I have some control over such spiritual matters. A few decades
ago, I ventured down to Richmond, Virginia to an Assembly for
Embroiderers then known to be a part of the Valentine Museum -- and
entered teaching certification. That began a challenging and wonderful
I learned so much from so many teachers. Learning 'processes' is a
given -- do this, do that, do it this way, do it that way. I am
referring to feeding the creative soul AND feeding the spiritual soul.
Betsy Robb was the first NAN Director I knew. There was a happy,
classy spirit there... a love of the 'art'. She was one of the first
teachers to teach the laying of silk threads and really enjoyed sharing
her love of needlework. Watching Jody Adams in the classroom was
delightful -- interesting, creative use of stitches, threads and
embellishments -- and it was guaranteed that you were going to enjoy
being there while you learned. Then, Joyce Lukomski. She has a special
sensitive ability to determine where each student is at any given time
and what they need from her as their teacher, mentor, or friend. That
was an important lesson for me -- pay attention to the 'individual'
spirit(s) in your class.
Others came along from which I learned lessons -- Fay Andrews and her
fabulous sense of humor and her love of 'lacey' things; Peg Laflam, and
her special way with color as well as her dry wit that often had me
doubled over in laughter; Dolores Andrew and her art-full intelligence
and gentle spirit; Gail Sirna and her ability to stitch beautiful pieces
and to handle just about any job given to her (you know - okaaaaaay,
here's another challenge, so let's see how we handle this one); Jean
Taggart and her special, unique ability to create an exquisite piece of
needlework and her gentle nature of presenting it to you; Judy Lehman
and her charismatic enthusiasm and special sense of art and color; and,
Anita Spitzhoff and her ability to gently organize and keep things on
track. There are many special 'spirits' that are all an important part
of NAN as well as other needlework organizations, a spiritual connection
of teachers who share a special passion about the art of the needle.
As you can see, there is a recurring theme here - the spirit. Betsy
Robb used to call it a 'sisterhood'. When I first heard it, although I
understood the concept, I didn't buy into it as a spiritual connection.
I hadn't matured that far in the whole process of teaching. I feel that
now. I have heard the 'spirit' expressed as a 'light' and this is
appropriate. Everyone holds a spiritual 'light'. Some bum brightly, some
bum lightly, but all add to the 'glow'.
There is a passion for WHAT we are teaching -- followed by the
special 'electricity' flowing through your veins as you share that
passion with others. It feeds your soul!