Hastings to Move On After 33 Years at MacDuffie


Alison Jackson, Managing Editor

When The MacDuffie School was in need of an interim art teacher in the spring of 1986, they reached out to Jo-Ann Hastings, who was in charge of a children’s art program out of her home. Though Hastings “went to the interview with no intention of taking the job,” in her own words, she departs from MacDuffie after ultimately spending 33 years helping students reach their potentials in the visual arts.

Although her daily routine changed dramatically upon accepting a teaching position at MacDuffie, Hastings was still pursuing her lifelong passion of teaching—specifically, teaching children “how to think.” Prior to beginning at MacDuffie in 1986, Hastings described her career as “off the clock;” rather than following a strict schedule, she was a public school substitute teacher, a home-based visual arts teacher, and a teacher of horseback riding lessons.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Hastings said. “What I wanted to teach was always changing; it would be based on my passion at that moment.” For Hastings, this passion began developing in the visual arts, but was quickly halted and changed to the sciences after Hastings was told by an art teacher that she should not “consider continuing in art.” After becoming a substitute science teacher and pursuing art on the side in her home studio, Hastings began her career a substitute teacher in art as well and eventually joined MacDuffie’s faculty as a full-time art teacher.

One aspect of MacDuffie that Hastings believed made the school stand out from the other schools she taught at in the past was the small class sizes, as she felt that she was able to “develop [her] own programs” tailored to the needs of small groups of students, rather than having to create a standardized curriculum.

Hastings additionally admired MacDuffie’s diversity, as she “loved learning about life in other countries, the international perspective of the student body,” as well as the experience of teaching students ranging from grades six to 12.

“It is wonderful watching the students develop into young adults,” Hastings said, reflecting on the growth she was able to witness from her students throughout the years.

Yet for Hastings, teaching at MacDuffie was not always about guiding students on their own paths to artistic success, but growing as an educator and an artist herself. Through teaching at MacDuffie and getting the chance to work with her talented students, Hastings said that she became a “better artist and a better teacher.”

“To meet the needs of my students, I had to expand my skills,” Hastings said. “I needed to learn how to work with the materials my students wanted to use. I now have a much wider range of art skills and techniques.”

While Hastings has enjoyed her three decades as a member of the MacDuffie community, she decided to depart due to injuries from her past work as a horseback riding instructor.

“When I get home from school I am not able to do anything,” Hastings said. “No time or energy left to create art, finish remodeling my house, work on my yard, or work with my dog. It is time. I want to be ‘off the clock’ again.”

Therefore, when she bids farewell to the MacDuffie community after the 2018-2019 school year, Hastings aims to accomplish long-awaited tasks around her home such as finishing a remodel and restoring her yard as well as “making and finishing art.” Hastings also envisions herself returning to teaching art out of her home and holding workshops, similar to what she did before joining the MacDuffie community.

Before she departs from MacDuffie, Hastings wanted to tell her students to “keep making art, keep trying new things, and listen to their new teacher.” However, Hastings also provided some parting words that can benefit any member of the MacDuffie community—“Make yourself take that risk, do the things that scare you, and listen and follow your own heart.”