I was asked recently why I teach. I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked that question before, and it stopped me in my tracks. At the time I deflected and made a joke about the huge amounts of money I was making teaching, so much so that I was looking into investment properties for my upcoming retirement from advertising. But really, I told this person I’d have to get back to them with a proper answer. This is what I plan to share.

Honestly, it’s not always. Especially when I’ve accidentally made a student here or there cry (which I still feel bad about btw). But getting to share a subject you’re passionate about with others actually is really fun. Seeing students develop as creatives, grow and laugh is fun. Plus, I’ve learned that laughter leads to better ideas, which leads to better campaigns, which of course leads to better job opportunities for our students. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.

It took me a while to learn how not to just solve a problem for a student, but instead guide them so they could solve it themselves. Ironically, about the same time I was getting better at helping our Milwaukee Portfolio School students I was being asked at work to lead and inspire junior teams to create great work themselves. Even to teach and guide clients. A quite surprising side effect of teaching has been realizing that the same teaching principles apply in a work environment and that the ability to inspire others makes me a more valuable creative leader. Who knew?

Our students come into class quiet. Shy. And quite often, lacking confidence. One of my favorite things to do early in class is to loosen everybody up. Get people laughing. Because after all, one of the most amazing things is watching them within a few classes open up, gain confidence, debate, laugh, freeform ideate, brainstorm, problem solve and create. They become less afraid of the creative process. We as teachers get to see that lightbulb moment when the student comes up with a “big idea.” One that maybe even we teachers wish we had thought of. That’s a pretty huge moment.

I believe that karma is a thing. There, I said it. I’ve had it both come back and bite me in the ass or surprise me as a happy little present that most might discount as coincidence. I hope that every student we help, every wide-eyed graduating creative whose portfolio we critique, every creative professional we have in our class sharing their war stories or judging, that all of us realize how lucky we are to be able to come up with ideas for a living. To be creative. To be inspired to problem solve our clients’ challenges. I believe if I share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years instead of keeping it all to myself, the karmic creative gods out there will let me continue to find those good ideas just a bit longer.

I feel I have the responsibility to share and give back to help any way I can. I believe every student that attends the Milwaukee Portfolio School leaves with skills that will help them lead a more creative life regardless of where they work or what career path they follow. Nothing warms my heart more than the emails we get telling us how huge of an impact our class had on them or how they would never be working where they are without our class. I like to think that better creative problem solvers make not only better employees or managers but also better community members and humans in general. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and not feel the need to have a larger impact on the world. Teaching is my chance to influence, inspire, transform lives and have a positive impact on the future of our creative community. It’s really that simple. I feel honored and privileged to help the next generation become all they can be.