Theresa knows exactly what first inspired her to found Thrive. "At the age of 25," she says, "I was teaching at an inner-city school, working closely with children who were struggling both emotionally and academically. It took only a handful of art lessons to see that if a child had enough guidance to be successful and enough freedom to be creative then they would thrive. I opened my business to focus full time on empowering children through art."
Before teaching at and owning Thrive, Theresa worked for the Seattle School District, supporting Spanish-speaking students and families through interpreting, translating and individualized instruction. Prior to that she tutored math and English for people with disabilities. Her love of art is closely linked with its potential for confidence building, skills development and empowerment. Like many people, when younger she had been made to feel like she couldn't draw – now, of course, she's passionate about making sure no one else feels that way about themselves.
Since founding Thrive, Theresa has become a proud mother of two boys. The experience has only deepened her love of the school: "Now more than ever I appreciate parents' desire to provide their kids with valuable learning experiences. I'm so happy that Thrive can be a part of that."
Lexie moved to Seattle from Colorado several years ago to study in Seattle Pacific University’s Illustration/New Pictures program. She fell in love with the Northwest, exploring the art and music offerings of Seattle’s neighborhoods along with the outdoor beauty of the Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula. This love has translated to direct engagement in the community, doing freelance graphic design, illustration and photography work for local musicians and non- profit organizations like Fremont Abbey and the Port & Anchor, a community arts café.
Advocating for laughter and growth while creating is one of Lexie's biggest passions. "Children approach art with such whimsy and bravery," she says. "I love how that whimsy can help smooth out unexpected challenges that arise." While she continues to have her own art practice (including bookmaking, calligraphy, visual journalling, comic books, and more!), she is inspired every day by her students. "I truly believe that each person has their own visual vocabulary," she says, "and it’s such a joy to be a part of helping someone discover that language."
Sheila brings a diverse array of professional experiences to her work at Thrive, from business marketing and graphic design to child care, tutoring, and assisting learners with disabilities. In the years since her BA in Studio Art at Seattle Pacific University, she’s also worked with children in settings as far-flung as Switzerland and Thailand.
She loves all kinds of art, but is especially drawn to landscape paintings that reflect her love of the outdoors and affinity for the countryside - farmland, barns, mountains, and wildflowers are some of her favorite imagery. Working at Thrive, "I love the different personalities of all the students, their effort and pride in their work," Sheila says, "and getting to be creative with others. Creative expression is so powerful for exploring and relating to the world around us."
Clare is a professional artist and writer – when not teaching at Thrive, she can be found painting in her studio, installing an exhibition, leading a creative writing workshop, performing at a poetry reading or swimming in Lake Washington to unwind. While being an artist can be a lot of hard work, Clare loves what she does. "So many of my adult students yearn for creative space, but don't know how to make it fit with their work life," she says. "I'm always aware of how valuable that creative time is, I feel really privileged to be able to help people make that happen for themselves."
Her education includes a BA in Visual Art and Creative Writing from Brown University, and a MA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in England, where she lived for several years before returning to Seattle. Clare teaches both children and adults, having worked over the years with all ages from toddlers to people in their 80s.
The curriculum at Thrive "creates a really good balance of structure and freedom," Clare says. "I really believe that people need help learning a visual language, the technique, just like learning to read and write. But I also really believe that the bottom line is once you're comfortable with that, you can do anything. There are tools, but there are absolutely no rules."
Carah comes from a long line of artists and creative individuals – as a child, she imagined being an art therapist when she grew up (she also harbored dreams of being an orca whale trainer). After earning her degree in Elementary Education from California State University San Marcos, Carah combined a wide variety of teaching experiences with work for a graphic designer. She credits that job with her love of tactile arts – paper arts and paper-cut especially, as well as painting and illustration.
One of the most rewarding things she's noticed at Thrive in particular is when students want to teach new art skills to their parents. "It's an open dialogue," she says, "where everyone is learning." She also loves the moments of laughter she shares with her students: "A lot of children's lives are really structured, and sometimes they can feel a lot of unspoken pressure. When I see they're able to laugh at things I think it's great. One of my favorite things about these art classes is just allowing that."
Tera has worked for a wide variety of local educational organizations, spanning from the arts to environmental stewardship and outdoor leadership. She studied Elementary Education and Art Education at Western Washington University, continuously integrating those fields with her love of the outdoors.
Much of her work has been focused on inclusion and support for diverse learners: working with at-risk youth on the Eagle Rock Challenge Course, providing individualized instruction for skiers with physical and cognitive disabilities, offering creative outlets to artists with a range of disabilities, teaching at a school for homeless and in-transition students, and advising arts educators on adapting programs to maximize inclusion.
Outside of her classes, Tera is drawn to fiber arts, ceramics, book arts, and collaborative projects. She's also active in skiing and rock-climbing, and competes nationally in Ultimate Frisbee. Her team-focused, supportive approach shows through in everything she does at Thrive.
Monica moved to Seattle a few years ago with her husband (they met in a life drawing class in college while she was studying for her BA in Visual Arts Education at Eastern Michigan University). She loves experiencing the Northwest – trying new restaurants, exploring neighborhoods, camping in the Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula.
She focused on ceramics in college, but now mostly works on watercolor and paper projects. In addition to her classes at Thrive, she also teaches Spanish to pre-schoolers, integrating Spanish language into daily art lessons. Her past classes for after-school and summer programs in Michigan show off her awesome range as a teacher: Watercolor, Drawing, Spanish… but also Altered Photo, Fashion Design, Comic Books and Visual Journaling.
Across all the subjects she teaches, the kids continue to inspire her. "I love the creativity in little minds!" Monica says. "They are so adventurous and brave in their thinking – it's a really rewarding job."