Laura Marie Rivera is a mother, an educator, a nonprofit professional, and a candidate for Seattle School Board- District 4. A gifted performer and teacher, Rivera has decided to put her expertise to work advocating for a brighter future for our Seattle Public Schools students.
“We have over 50,000 students and 50,000 futures in our hands. Each student comes to us with their own strengths, challenges, interests, and goals. We need to make sure that our schools appreciate every student’s gifts and provide the education and skills that they will need for their futures- whether a four year degree, an apprenticeship with the trades, or a career in the arts or sports or other endeavors.”
Having spent a lifetime in the arts and education, Rivera is a natural educator. Her unique background makes her the ideal candidate for inclusion and the arts in our schools. She has been a part of several school districts throughout the country and her 30 years of teaching give her the student-centered perspective that will be so valuable as a Seattle School Board Director.
Rivera recalls her first teaching experience fondly: “I had been attending my elementary school’s summer art camp for years and was honored to be asked to stay on as a teacher’s aide when I started middle school. That was my first insight into how much work a teacher does before and after the bells.”
By the time she was in high school, she volunteered as a sign language interpreter in her public school and was teaching dance classes on the weekends. These early experiences formed the basis of her future in education.
When she moved to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway, she often picked up teaching jobs between her stage productions. But it wasn’t until after she was a parent that she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in Education, and started teaching in public schools and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Crystal Bridges was a brand-new art museum located at the base of the Ozark mountains. Many of the students in the area were visiting a museum for the first time ever.
“Introducing students to the world of art was such a privilege. And the museum’s collection and natural setting made it the most beautiful classroom in the world,” Rivera said. This proved to be the perfect place to solidify her own teaching style. Rivera’s teaching goals included making students feel welcome, exposing them to new ideas, encouraging participation, and in the end allowing each student to show how capable they are. These were lofty goals when welcoming over 3,000 students each year.
Ultimately, she was successful. The impacts were measured when the museum partnered with the University of Arkansas for “The Educational Value of Field Trips” study: students demonstrated statistical improvements in critical thinking and empathy after their museum visits with Rivera.
Here in Seattle, she has taught at UW and volunteers as the local chair of the annual Reflections Art Competition, sings with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, serves on the Executive Committee of Coe Elementary School PTA, advocates with Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, and was recently asked to join the board of Coyote Central.
Coyote is an inclusive, pay-what-you-can arts organization that provides engaging arts classes for ages 10-15 painting, welding, cooking, animation, furniture making. They describe themselves as a community powered by curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.
Rivera said she was drawn to Coyote Central after her preteen had such a welcoming experience and got the chance to work with power tools. She said, “Coyote is the personification of equity in education. I am so thankful to have an arts org like this in Seattle and would love to be able to provide their creativity, skilled instruction, and welcoming environment to every student in Seattle. This is how we should be approaching public education in our schools. Each student needs to be valued and appreciated in order to get the most out of their education.”
From her early experience of volunteering at the inclusive high school, teaching days with disabled students, and now as a parent of a child with their own accessibility needs, Rivera understands just how important it is to include children of all abilities and appreciate the gifts they have to offer.
“Seattle is a leader in technology, innovation, and the arts. And we need to continue opening up access to the brilliance our city has to offer, and make sure that our students are receiving the best possible public education.”
Paid for by Laura Marie for Seattle Schools. The Seattle’s Child editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.