Originally from El Paso, Texas, Pamela Janecki has lived in Tampa for 16 years. A few years ago the technical theater teacher was introduced to the term “teaching artist.” Today, that is how she thinks of herself.
“I am a teaching artist. Art and creativity are the driving force behind everything I do. I am fortunate to be able to share that with my students at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School of the Arts.”
What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
My family’s success comes from independence and understanding. If there is anything to agree on about families, it is that no two are the same. My family’s biggest challenge is being so far from one anther. My family is spread across the country from South Dakota to Texas to Ohio to Florida. We celebrate each other’s successes and are a shoulder for each other to lean on. We understand that vicinity does not equal love. We always embrace distance as a new place to visit — always a new adventure. There is not a single plan that works for everyone, but I believe one of the keys is being involved in each other’s lives no matter how far apart we are. That means asking questions about each other — specific questions that lead to conversation and more questions. It’s not only about asking questions. Knowing when to listen is equally important. I enjoy making my family feel loved and important.
What is your biggest fear?
Other than sharks, bees, and spiders, I have no fear! I’m a teacher (just kidding). I am actually very shy and ironically have a fear of being on stage, public speaking and talking to strangers. I have realized as I get older how irrational most of these fears are and manage to muscle through them with humor. Maybe this is why I understand my students so well. Having a love for something, like theater, does not always an actor or actress make.
What advice would you give to other women?
Do what makes you happy. Just like no two families are the same no two women are the same. What works for one may drive another woman crazy. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, do it. If you want to have a career, have it. If you want to have both, you can. That is the beauty of being a woman.
What is your proudest moment?
Most of my proudest moments involve keeping in touch with former students and watching them become as successful as I always thought they would. I have been blessed to have several former families stay in touch with me long after they have left my class. I love seeing former students start careers or families of their own. I love seeing them become outstanding young men and women. One of the best things that can happen for a teacher is having a former student find you and thank you for the role you have played in their lives. Teachers would do what they do even without the thank yous, but they are magical, heartfelt and sincere when they happen. It always reminds us of the why behind the what that we do.
What is your biggest achievement?
I have been proud of many achievements in teaching and out. Most recently, I was one of five teachers selected from the state of Florida to receive a STAR (State Teacher/Artist Residency) at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. This was an amazing four weeks in Manasota Key, Florida, where I was given the most precious gift that every teacher desires — the gift of time. The residencies give artists (who also are teachers) the opportunity to focus on their art. I was lucky enough to attend as a writer and photographer.
What makes you happy?
Friends and family make me happy. With my family being spread out all over the place, my friendships are more like family.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I love to travel. Even the smallest towns have something to say. Even the largest cities have quiet and peaceful moments. It is a bonus that I have family and friends almost anywhere I go in the U.S. If I choose to travel outside the U.S., I know that there is always someone willing to go on an adventure with me.
What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?
I may not have children of my own, but I have mothered many. I always say I have 100 children every year. I may not tuck them in at night, but I am there to share their dreams and inspire them. I celebrate their successes, and I pick them up when they fall. I am there to keep them safe, physically and emotionally. I deal with mood swings and different personalities on a daily basis. I have given out lunch money. I have purchased school supplies. I have paid for field trips. I have given advice. I have been yelled at, and I have been hugged. My students make what I do worth every minute.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?
I don’t have children (besides my students). My 5-year-old niece Avery and I highly recommend the beach at sunset. There is nothing like watching her pick up seashells and build sandcastles.
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
My biggest inspiration is my mother. She has such a calm and peaceful demeanor. I always say I wish I could be more like her. I’m still trying!