Not Your Average Gals are kickass, blazing-their-own-path, independent-minded, free-thinking, kind-hearted and all around wonderful humans beings. We learn a lot about ourselves from the people we choose to look to for inspiration or friendship. I’m excited to introduce you to some of them.
World, meet Falicia Ann O’Mard.
Falicia and I lived on the same dorm floor together at Michigan State University–GO GREEN!
We lived in the artsy-fartsy dorm as some of the less-than-cool people used to refer to it. Our dorm was part of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities on campus, which meant it was filled with amazing, charismatic and creative students. Even though I wasn’t living in the dorms for that specific college and program, I benefited by being surrounded by such affection for the arts.
Fun fact: Because of the friendships made there, I worked in the Art History Library for nearly my entire time in college.
I’ve enjoyed seeing Falicia impact so many lives as an educator. When you picture the ideal teacher–one who is kind, compassionate and breathes life into learning–you’ll see Falicia.
She recently opened an online art studio that has paintings selling out like mad! I knew after seeing them and the reason behind why she started the studio that I had to ask if she’d like to be featured. Lucky for you guys, she said yes.
I’m so incredibly grateful Falicia is sharing her story with us. She absolutely is a Not Your Average Gal you’ll enjoy learning from and knowing. Let’s go!
Falicia Ann O’Mard
FortyFive12Studios Owner & Activist-Educator
What’s your passion–the thing that makes you a Not Your Average Gal?
I’m a social-justice-living, creative-spirit-having, teacher-ninja who loves to paint.
When did you start this passion?
I’ve been working in education for 15 years. I have been painting since I was a child. I started @fortyfive12studios during quarantine. Being cooped up at home really opened up more time to express my creative side. I’ve been working toward social justice inside and outside of the classroom since I moved to Atlanta in 2003.
I volunteer with Hands on Atlanta on a regular basis. Because of my consistent volunteerism over the last 17 years, I was asked to apply to be a Civic Leader. The Civic Leadership Program develops volunteers while supporting the needs of nonprofit agencies. I joined Hands On Atlanta’s Civic Leadership Program in June 2016. This program was an opportunity for me to further my personal and professional development while serving the Atlanta community.
Through this program, I served as an ambassador for Hands On Atlanta. I connected people to passions and expanded the capacity of Hands On Atlanta’s nonprofit partners by serving as a liaison between volunteers seeking service and nonprofits in need of volunteer managers.
I led volunteer service projects with Truly Living Well (East Point Location), which is a local organization that grows better communities by connecting people with the land through education, training, and demonstration of economic success in natural urban agriculture. I led volunteers in harvesting more than 30,000 pounds of food for the children and families in need in the poorest areas of Atlanta.
I was also selected from over 500 applicants as a Teacher-Author in the Teacher for Justice Grant Program. That means I create anti-racist and social justice resources for teachers and families. This has been my life’s work so it was the perfect opportunity to share my knowledge.
The two resources that I created are now live too! They are listed for grades 2-4 (the grant has a three grade level limit), but they are appropriate for grades K-5.
Here’s a link to each of them:
- Creating a Socially Just Classroom Aligned with Say Something
- Building Classroom Community: An Anti-Racist Approach to Establishing a Social Justice Classroom
Do you make any income with your passion?
I do make income with my passion. I make income by selling my paintings and also via TeachersPayTeachers. My hope is to make enough income so that it can become my “day job.”
Do you have a “day job” that is different from your passion or business?
My day job is working as a Mathematics Instructional Specialist. I work with educators in “failing schools” to improve their craft and close academic gaps. I still work with children on a daily basis. I believe that children are the best agents for change. Though they are tiny, they have the power to change the world and it is my job as an educator to help them harness their strengths and use those passions and strengths for good. I accomplish this by incorporating real world situations into my classroom visits. I teach students about people that look like them, live like them, and/or speak like them that have changed the world. By connecting student’s culture and their circumstances, the idea of impacting the world becomes a more attainable goal for the students that I work with. It also models educational activism for teachers in real time.
I not only expect students to change the world, I expect it of myself. That’s why I volunteer. That’s why I make the conscious decision to work at Title 1 schools. That’s why, after working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemiology Fellow, I left that job and returned to teaching in Atlanta Public Schools. I saw the news about the cheating scandal and I knew that I could help those students achieve at a high level without cheating. I resigned from my job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a Wednesday and began teaching on Thursday. The expectation of being an agent for change is reflected in every way in my personal teaching style, the choices I’ve made and in the way I live my life.
What lead you to your current path?
Growing up, my parents pushed me to be a doctor or engineer. I always knew that those career paths weren’t for me. I would spend my time under the kitchen table drawing pictures after dinner while the rest of my family would watch TV. Further, I played with all of the kids in the neighborhood. My mom called me a “baby whisperer.” When I went to college, it was clear to me that I needed to follow my calling, education. Once I changed my major, I earned a 4.0 in every single college of education course. I wrote my philosophy of education at 21 years old and it still holds true. My dream then was to create a classroom full of tiny activists. I do that. Half way through my career, I took a detour and earned a Master of Public Health in Reproductive Health and Population Studies from Emory University. I worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 4 years in the Division of Reproductive Health. The entire time I was working there, my heart kept calling me back to teaching.
Teaching is so rewarding, but comes with a lot of stress. Educating and loving other people’s children is an honor and I want to do it well. Part of that includes self care. When I returned to the classroom, my need to paint was undeniable. After a day of creating tiny activists, I came home and decompressed with a canvas and some paints.
Please check our her studio and art. Its incredible!
Pieces tend to sell out, so snag yours.
In pursuing something less than conventional, did you face any pushback from family, friends or even strangers? If so, how did you deal?
I haven’t received any pushback from family and friends in pursuing my passion for art and social justice. In fact, they have encouraged me to do this for many years. My hubs thinks that I should open up an art studio. My sister thinks that I should write a book. Many people have told me to write a book.
What are 3 things that you’ve gained from doing what you love and perhaps going against the norms?
Three things. It’s hard to narrow it down to just three. I learned that painting is a form of therapy for me. When I paint, it allows me to get out everything that I am feeling that I may not have words for. I also learned that it is easier for me to paint for myself rather than for others. When I create something that flows organically it tends to better reflect me and I love it more. That’s a huge metaphor for my life. Taking care of myself first isn’t always something that has come naturally. Through painting, I have rediscovered self care.
One other thing that I have learned is that small actions can change the world. Sharing my knowledge of social justice and anti-racism helps to transform classrooms. It moves my work beyond my own four walls and makes it accessible to others. Not only that, but with quarantine and social distancing, many families are opting to homeschool. The social justice resources that I create are made so that anyone can pick them up and use them: families, teachers, tutors.
Tell us something about yourself people would be surprised to hear!
I love to travel! I’ve left the country every year since I was 20 years old. This year has been incredibly difficult because of travel restrictions and COVID-19, so it will be the first time that I’ve stayed in the states since 2000. My plan was to go to Greece to celebrate my 40th birthday, but that will have to wait until next year. So far, I’ve been to 25 countries. Costa Rica and Peru have been my favorites.
Are there any words of advice you can offer readers who struggle creating their own path?
Just go for it. If you wait for the moment when everything is perfect, you will be waiting forever. And above all else, trust yourself. Everyone will have words of wisdom, but what matters is what you think and how you live your life.
Any favorite mottos or quotes that you live by?
“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson.
This includes our inner child. Even though we grow up and mature, we cannot forget about our inner child. Maybe you are your own champion. Maybe you are a champion for someone else. I have a picture of 5 year old me hanging in my office to remind myself of this quote. My art, my social justice work all harken back to this quote.
Be sure to follow all of Falicia’s adventures here:
Bolding throughout article is my own emphasis.
Thank you for telling my story!
Falicia, I love your comments about children being change agents! I couldn’t agree more!! Every time I listen to them, hear their thoughtful questions, and read their essays… I’m encouraged and inspired by them! Thank you for sharing your story, your resources and your beautiful art!! Take care & be well in this challenging time in education! <3