Robin Muller Brings an International Perspective as Chair of Putney’s Art Department

After teaching abroad for fifteen year at international schools across Asia, Robin Muller joined The Putney School first as a drawing and painting teacher, and more recently stepped into the position of Art Department Chair last spring.

With an extensive background in progressive education, she also brings a strong focus in professional development, curriculum coordination, and cultural awareness.

“When I was in international schools, there were sometimes 60 different countries being represented,” she said.

She has taught in Thailand, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Paris and Bali. Experiences such as teaching through the International Baccalaureate Program, working at an inclusive school for students with exceptionalities in Hong Kong, and teaching a college level course with a student who was legally blind, have given her a diverse perspective when it comes to art education.

“I just really learned the importance of finding different ways for all the voices in the room to be heard and understood,” Muller said.

From Bali to Brattleboro

Up until recently, Muller was “super happy, living her best life” in Indonesia, but had her eye on one job in particular that would set in motion a major change:

I thought if we’re going to go back to the States, the only place I wanted to go was The Putney School. I was not going to come back for anything else.”

In fact, Putney has been on her radar for about 15 years. Before beginning her international adventures she worked at both Buxton School and Middlesex School — both boarding high schools in Massachusetts — and those positions exposed her to Putney. She was immediately drawn to Putney’s values, especially the emphasis placed on art education, the work program, the farming and sustainability element of the school, and the idea of living in a community and being of service to something bigger than yourself.

When an opportunity became available, she knew it was time to return to her home base of Brattleboro.

Although she started at Putney as a drawing and painting teacher, her background is in textiles, and she considers herself “materials agnostic.”

“And what I mean by that is as an artist myself, I’m much more interested in ideas and concepts, and it’s typically the materials that are going to follow,” she said. “My thing is about teaching students to express themselves and to build confidence in who they are as individuals, and doing that through art.” she said.

An Interdisciplinary Direction

Across visual arts, performing arts and music, one of the art department’s strengths, Muller says, is that many teachers are also working artists and performers. It’s a part of the program that she would like to expand.

“It’s so rich for students,” Muller said. “I’d love to see even more of that happening, where we have visiting artists or residencies here.”

She would also like to deepen the art department’s interdisciplinary collaboration by, for instance, co-teaching a course with a science teacher or coordinating units of study with other classes to facilitate overlapping lessons.

“We have complex problems in the world to solve right now, and you need a lot of different ways and approaches to thinking about those problems,” Muller said. “And the more that we can get people having conversations and problem solving across disciplines, I think that we have a better chance at our future.”

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