Learning your own strengths
We often assume teachers are the ones who had it easy in school and aced every test the first time. But that wasn’t quite the case for Camari Riley. Though she’s about to earn her education degree and take up a position as a visual arts teacher right here in Gary, her triumph didn’t come easy.
“Since I was a child, I have always experienced struggle to reach a milestone,” she said. “I was unable to pass a state test, and I was left with no other option but to delay my graduation.”
It took three years to rebuild her confidence, but with determination and paying attention to her own needs, Riley returned to IU Northwest in 2021 and earned a perfect GPA.
After looking closely at her weaknesses, she learned the more she studied, the more overwhelmed she felt. Doing things the traditional way wasn’t preparing her for success. “I did not at first recognize my learning style. I am extremely visual, so instead of reading information from a book, I had begun to find videos that provided the same information. Therefore, I was able to retain it better,” she said.
Even though her classes weren’t a walk in the park, Riley’s love for art never wavered. “I believe that art and connecting with children are two talents of mine. Once I realized that the two could be combined as a career, I was all-game for whatever it took to become an art teacher,” she said.
In addition to sharing her love for the arts with children, Riley is bringing her talents to the community. Since fall 2020, she’s been running her own photography business, CLR Visuals. Riley has photographed couples, models and fellow graduates.
The level of success Riley is experiencing today didn’t seem possible for her a few years ago. Beyond her own perseverance, she recognizes the fine arts department, as well as the School of Education, with giving her the tools she needed to learn her own strengths.
"The IUN arts department provided me with a bounty of exposure as to what it means to be an artist,” Riley said. “Also, the education department has definitely opened my eyes to discover the recipe for what it means to be a successful educator.”
Riley mentioned that each of her professors brought a unique energy to the classroom and helped her build confidence in her teaching and art skills. At the close of her time at IU Northwest, she knows she’s never alone.
“It may seem as if you’re going through this alone, but there is a considerable amount of people who experience the same challenge that you may be facing,” she said. “Test anxiety does not define you or your ability to learn.”
Riley is certainly not defined by her hardships. Instead, she’s a graduate, artist, teacher, photographer and so much more.