Recent graduate to teach in Bangladesh

Tonya Gardner '16

Tonya Gardner ’16 is traveling to Bangladesh to teach the basics of art for three months.

Gardner will teach at Saundorzo Academy, a culture academy in Dhaka, founded in 2013. She will teach children ages 5-15 the foundations of art, painting, handwriting, singing and traditional dancing.

The course concepts will be tailored around opportunities and materials locally available to the students and subsequently turned into the course curriculum.

“I have a background in collage, so in my art I use discarded materials and things that people throw away,” Gardner said. “I thought that it would be empowering for the kids because they don’t have to buy things. They can find things in their own backyard and at their homes and create art from it. We can guide the curriculum toward sustainable resources and local materials because they have a lot of fabrics and cloths.”

The opportunity arose because of Gardner’s relationship with one of her art professors, Halide Salam.

“I’m really close to Salam,” Gardner said. “I don’t think that I would’ve had that opportunity at another university. I had her painting class during my sophomore year at Radford and she took me under her wing. I took her collage class and it opened my horizons to more experimenting and more social context contained within my art.”

Professor Halide Salam with Tonya Gardner, BFA Studio Art
Halide Salam, left, and Tonya Gardner, right.

Hailing from East Pakistan, Salam shared her experiences with Gardner.

“I want to learn everything first-hand and experience it myself,” Gardner said. “As a woman, I want to see what others experience over there to see if it is actually like what we hear. The only way I can talk about it is if I experience it.”

Gardner hopes to use the experience as she seeks to begin a career in public service.

“I want to leave with a more open mind and a better understanding of the world,” Gardner said. “I see myself doing some sort of public service, such as Teaching for America. I can gear it towards these experiences. I also want to start something that helps the kids that don’t have the same privileges that I have had.”

Salam’s experiences and network in the region helped choose the host family with which Gardner is staying.

“She knows the family with which I am staying,” Gardner said. “I’m lucky to have all the resources to be able to make this trip possible. It’s nice having safety nets for my first time overseas.”  

Gardner said she “is thankful for the opportunity” to travel abroad and work with students in another country.

“I think this says a lot about the art department and this university,” Gardner said.

Feb 1, 2017
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749