There’s something about photo instructor Kat Mayo’s sweet southern accent that just feels like home. Maybe it’s the friendly smile that accompanies it, or maybe it’s the warm approach she takes to her students that helps them feel a part of the class.
Whatever it may be, you can definitely tell that the former painting-major turned photography instructor enjoys what she does here at Yuba College.
“I think that one of the great things about this program at Yuba College is the ability it gives me to work one-on-one with students, allowing them to get excited about learning through more involvement,” she said.This spring will mark her second and final semester at Yuba, as she was filling in for instructor Rick Murai while he went on sabbatical for a year. She found out about the position while she was in her home state of Alabama.
“I’m from the small farming town near Selma, Alabama. I earned a BFA from the University of Alabama, and I read about the Yuba position being open in a publication, and decided to apply,” she recalled.
She was accepted soon after, then packed her things and headed west.”It was quite a move, but well worth the teaching experience.”
The climate here in the Sacramento Valley took a little getting used to, though.
“Yeah the weather took a lot out of me here, at first,” she recalls with a chuckle.
“The heat here is much different than it is down south. It’s so much dryer here than in Alabama, though I like it here now that I am used to it.”
While studying at the University of Alabama as a painting major, Mayo said that she took a photography class strictly because it was a required course, yet that class changed her forever.”I discovered that photography allowed me to express myself artistically in a way that no other medium could,” she noted.
But that was only half of the impact that the class had upon her. She met a special person who would set her in the direction that would eventually bring her to where she is today as an instructor.
“I met a teacher named Gay Burke, who was a wonderful teacher. She inspired me to want to share my love for the medium of photography with others by teaching it to them, as she did for me.”
“Whenever I see a student get excited over a photo, that just makes my day,” she adds with a sheepish grin.
Along with the emotional attachment she feels for the medium, Mayo also sees the importance of photo as an integral part of the arts in the grand scheme of the educational system, and in times of uncertainty regarding budget issues, the arts are often thought of as the first to be sacrificed.
“I know that photography is not a cheap hobby or major, and someday it may feel the brunt of the budget situations because of the costs of paper and chemistry,” she said.
“I believe, however, that the arts are a vital part of the overall educational system, and photo is unique in that it pulls in those who may be artistically inclined, yet may not wish to paint or sculpt. It gives those individuals another avenue to explore their talents as artists.”
As a teacher, Mayo has one important idea that she would hope to get across to her students.
“I want students to know that its okay to mess up a photo now and again, and its also okay to break the rules once in awhile to try new ways of doing things.”
“Its for the students to learn to express themselves through photography, and tap into their creativity, and to let themselves be brilliant.”
Once the semester ends, Mayo hopes to continue teaching photo, preferably in the area.
“I’d love to stay and teach locally if its possible. I am definitely a Nor-Cal convert,” she proclaims.
There must be something about Northern California that seems like a new home to Kathryn Mayo.