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Mariam Higgins – Administration
September 9, 2020
Where are you from?
I was born and raised outside of Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved to Oregon almost 30 years ago.
What are the most important things that you want students to know about you?
I want students to know that I have a sense of humor and that I am multiracial. I’m Pakistani, African American and white. I was born and raised a Muslim. Those are all things that I don’t think people would notice from just looking at me, but those are really important to who I am.
Where have you studied?
Where I haven’t studied might be a better question. I transferred twice during my undergraduate years, and I’ve done graduate work at at least three different schools. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and my major was medical illustration. I also went to Case Western Reserve’s medical school. It was a joint program. So my undergraduate degree is actually from a medical school.
What did you do before coming to Lincoln?
For 15 years, I was a medical illustrator. When my kids started kindergarten, I started becoming more and more interested in their education, so I went back to school and got a graduate degree in teaching. I’ve taught for 15 years, mostly at Catlin Gabel. Then, I became an instructional coach for Portland Public Schools, North Clackamas Schools and the Hillsboro School District. I worked in 15 different schools coaching teachers on how to integrate art into their teaching.
Why did you transition from being a medical illustrator to working in education?
I would say the transition from being a professional artist to a teacher was kind of surprising. I found it was a new passion. During all the years I had done medical illustration, I found myself thinking about kids and teaching all the time instead of drawing broken bones (which I’m pretty good at, too). But it was more rewarding to be a teacher. I also teach at Lewis and Clark’s Graduate School of Education. So, with both of these roles as an admin and as a professor, I really like how I just get to positively impact and be a part of more people’s lives.
What are you looking forward to at Lincoln?
Well, this is kind of a surprise to me. I just love the spirit of it. Dressing up in red and black every day and saying “Goooo Cards!” And, I know this sounds corny, but I’m really excited to be a part of the flock.
Why did you want to work at Lincoln?
Honestly, it was the last question of my job interview that really made me want this job. They asked, “What else? Anything we should know about you?” I said, “I am passionate about integrating subjects. I’m both an artist and a scientist, and I like to see how, for example, math and art pair together, or business and dance or architecture and drama.” I remember Ms. Chapman saying, “We’re building a new high school and we’re looking for ways for our students to engage in the architecture, the design and the building of it.” And I just leaned forward and I was like, “Now I really want this job.”
What are the most important things you want to bring to Lincoln?
I’m a pretty good listener and I’m creative, so rather than say “This is what I want to do,” I want to hear what students want to do and what teachers want to do. I also really love to problem solve and figure out a way to make that happen.
What are you really passionate about?
I’ve been an activist since I was 18 in a variety of different ways, including the somewhat embarrassing “kayactivist” movement (“floating protests” all over the world to block or slow down oil drilling and advance environmental protections). I kayak a lot, and I’ve been on the water before as a protester in my kayak.
What are your interests and hobbies?
I just like being outside and with friends. I hike every Sunday with a group of friends. I sea kayak. I bicycle, I ski and play pickleball. I just like to play outside.
How have you been involved in the planning of virtual learning?
I’m always looking for ways to make it easier and to find the silver linings of it. How can we make this so it’s more inclusive? How can we help students connect with one another and make it easier?
It’s also important to recognize that we just set something up that is all online and that we can use this same thing in the future if we need to. We won’t have to rebuild the whole thing. We’ll just adapt it. I know some other teachers who were getting really creative with it, like teaching with GoPro cameras. And they’re just like, “Wow, this is really cool because people can watch it over and over again instead of just one time.” So, yes, I am involved. I want to make sure that we can think about different ways to keep people engaged and connected.
What are you the most excited about at Lincoln? What has stood out to you so far?
I think just the optimistic attitude of the teachers and the admin. Instead of saying, “Look, no, we can’t do that,” everyone asks, “How do I do that?” Or says, “Let me try that,” or “I’m going to try this way,” or “Let’s find this work around” or “Let’s reach out.” So I think the energy level is just super positive because everybody’s going through hard times. It’s really surprising that everyone is so eager and positive to make this work for students.I