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Concordia professor named National Higher Education Art Educator of the year

Juan Carlos Castro is the first Concordian to receive this prestigious award from the National Art Education Association
April 5, 2022

Photo by David Ward. "Good research happens in teams and good researcher happen by building partnerships with other researchers,” says Associate Professor Juan Carlos Castro. Photo by David Ward.

The National Art Education Association (NAEA) has named Associate Professor Juan Carlos Castro, Chair of Concordia’s Department of Art Education, the National Higher Education Art Educator of the year at their national convention in March.

The NAEA is the world’s leading professional organization for visual arts, design, and media arts education professionals. With over 15,000 members around the world, he is the first art educator in Quebec, and the fourth in Canada, to be given the prestigious, peer-reviewed award.

“Juan Carlos Castro exemplifies the highly qualified art educators active in education today: leaders, teachers, students, scholars, and advocates who give their best to their students and the profession,” says NAEA President James Haywood Rolling, Jr.

“It's definitely quite an honor. I'm humbled that my peers valued the work that I was able to contribute, and that they saw value in it. I am so thankful,” says Castro.

Professor Vivek Venkatesh says he is immensely proud of his friend and colleague’s achievement, who has played a key role at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Perfomance as a member of their executive committee since 2018.

“As the first Concordia faculty member to be recognized with this award, it’s both a testament to the high quality of art education at Concordia and to Juan’s ground breaking research work on mobile media and digital literacy, which are cornerstones for our research axes concerning social pedagogy.” 

Becoming a better art teacher and a better researcher

Castro joined the NAEA as an undergraduate student 25 years ago. Since then, he has served as its Eastern Regional Director, been a constant reviewer and editor of journal articles, received the Manual Barkan Award in 2013 for his own scholarship, and most recently, he served as chair of the NAEA’s Research Commission from 2018 – 2020.

The friendships and connections he’s made over the years have contributed incalculably to his personal and professional development, he says.

“I’ve learned how to be a better art teacher and how to be a better researcher. Research is not a single person activity. Good research happens in teams and good researcher happen by building partnerships with other researchers.”

His colleagues on the NAEA Research Commission nominated Castro for the award in recognition of his leadership and commitment to building a culture of research within the organization.

Under his leadership, the Commission began to poll its membership about their research and started mapping fields of knowledge around a variety of research topics. From there, they created new pathways for members, the majority of whom are schoolteachers, to participate in university-level research.

“We are trying to cultivate an attitude towards research in practice, seeing research as valuable work that informs practice. It’s really about forging research-related connections between others in the field to build robust projects that are of concern to teachers and expand the body of knowledge within the field,” he says.

‘We have one of the best doctoral programs in the world’

Castro also helped to foster connections between the NAEA Research Commission and the Art Education Research Institute. Together they have undertaken an examination of the state of doctoral education in the field.

“In light of mass retirements, a whole demographic shift is happening, a new cohort coming in to the field. We wanted to look at how are they being educated. What are we doing well, where are the gaps, and how do we address them?”

All these conversations come back to Concordia’s Department of Art Education, says Castro, where they improve our program and the quality of our teaching.

“We have one of the best doctoral programs in the world, but can we do things better? Of course we can. Bringing these kinds of dialogues to Concordia, I think, is helping us to improve what we do.”

Learn more about the Department of Art Education.

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