“One of my primary goals as a teacher is to provide learning experiences that highlight the importance of community, both the community within the classroom and the communities beyond it.”
Bringing together the community through tattoos of words from a poem. Documenting the intricacies of the lives of Lexington’s drag queens and kings through photos and short written vignettes. Photographing area residents seated on the furniture they had left at the curb—and then convincing them to share personal stories related to the discarded items. Hiding handmade dolls in nooks and crannies along the Limestone Avenue corridor and encouraging local residents to find the dolls and give them good homes.
These are just a small sampling of the types of community projects Kremena Todorova has pursued with her favorite collaborator, Transylvania art professor Kurt Gohde. Some projects, such as the 1,000 Dolls project and temporary mural installations, have been associated with the Community Engagement Through the Arts class that Todorova and Gohde teach at Transylvania. Not only do students eagerly embrace collaborating with area residents on these art projects, but the local denizens frequently come to class.
Todorova’s goal is to nudge students beyond the confines of the Transylvania campus and out of their comfort zones. She wants her students to develop a curiosity about the world and the people in it so they can “sympathize with lives and experiences that are unlike their own,” much the same way we do when we read. By opening our imaginations, we become better readers, better writers, and better citizens.
This interdisciplinary, community-based approach is one of the advantages that Todorova believes Transylvania offers its students. Her role is to “enable each student to find his or her voice by creating a classroom environment that thrives on intellectual curiosity and openness.” With small classes, the English faculty can give the personal attention students need to feel comfortable stepping away from the familiar and embracing bold new ideas.
“I enjoy most the opportunity to be with young people whose capacity for wonder and for idealism seems limitless.”