Hudson Valley Parent

HVP Novemer 2016

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Page 8 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 9 that I'd just teach one summer. So I taught a teen enrichment program for one summer, and then came to Carole and said 'Ok, I've got an idea.'" Portfolios into diplomas That idea became the Art Insti- tute, a visual arts based program that focuses on helping students get into college by putting together portfolios and helping them to earn merit based scholarships. It was a perfect fit for Mill Street Loft, in which 40 percent of the students are already receiving some sort of financial aid in order to take part in its programming. "We have kids in class whose parents are multi-millionaires sitting next to kids whose parents make less than $12,000 a year. You see them learning together, blossoming together, and discovering together that their dreams are possible," says Poteet. "We had a student, his fresh- man year on his first day of class, he told me that he wanted to go to Yale. So we talked about what we'd have to do over the next few years to make that happen. Today, not only is he at Yale, but he's attending completely free." Now, after 20 years of success- fully placing all of his students into college, Poteet is asking himself one question: Will he be able to do the same for his own children? Defining success The Poteets homeschool all four of their children, striving to bal- ance the requirements of a formal education system with the freedom to learn at their own pace, while discovering and exploring their I am a Hudson Valley Parent Todd Poteet: The art of teaching By BRIAN PJ CRONIN W hen Todd Poteet and his wife, Kathi, left New York City and came to Red Hook over 20 years ago, they were driven by idealism. In the city, he and Kathi were part owners in a successful graphic design firm with over 35 employ- ees, but Poteet began to feel uneasy about the companies and projects his firm was being paid to promote. "I developed an ethical view of design," he says. "If you're creating work that promotes something, then how responsible are you, as a designer, for what it is that company is producing?" Poteet had also worked as a pub- lic high school teacher in the city but found the educational system's "one- size-fit-all mentality" too restrictive as well. The more that he and his colleagues worked to adapt their teaching styles in order to reach students with different styles of learning, the more pushback that got from their superiors. "I had all these amazing teachers around me, but their hands were tied," he says. "It's like getting Super- man on your team and then telling him he can't use any of his powers." In Red Hook, the Poteets started their own design firm, working only for organizations whose mission and sense of ethics they agree with. That work soon brought them in contact with Carole Wolf, founder of Pough- keepsie's arts and social services organization, the Mill Street Loft. "She kept asking me to teach, and I kept telling her that I don't teach anymore," says Poteet. "Finally I said passions. In a sense, he's created the system for his children that he wanted to use when he was a public school teacher. If one of his chil- dren is struggling with a particular subject, they can spend the rest of the day on it instead of moving on because the curriculum has to keep rolling. It also means that the children's educational curricula can be per- sonalized depending on their goals. While Alyssa, 16, is interested in ear- ly childhoood education, and Char- ity, 10, wants to explore a career in animal husbandry, there's also the youngest - Owen, who is 4 and currently wants to be Spider-Man (which does present a pretty unique set of educational challenges). But Audrey, 13, who sings and plays guitar at local open mics, wants to explore a career in music. Although the practical side of Po- teet kicks in as he thinks it a tough career choice, this is the same strug- gle that he guides his own students and their parents through all the time, showing them that a career in the arts is possible, and that students need to be encouraged to follow their passions. "My goal for my children is not this American ideal of success, deter- mined by how many zeroes come at the end of your paycheck. My idea of success is being a good human, and doing good so that other people can benefit from your existence," he says. Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer whose work appears through- out the Hudson Valley.

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