Step Into Art Teachers
ABIGAIL S. RISCHIN, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT
Abby Rischin is the founder and president of Step Into Art, Inc. Abby designs and teaches Step Into Art programs, builds partnerships with schools and community organizations, and leads a devoted team of educators, professionals, and volunteers. Since founding Step Into Art in 2005, Abby has developed programs introducing over 4000 children and young teens to art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Abby established Step Into Art programs through a successful five-year partnership with the Newton Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs and subsequently expanded Step Into Art to reach children in schools all over Boston. Making school partnerships the organization’s singular focus from 2010 forward, Abby currently leads and teaches programs that serve 500 students at seven Boston schools each year. Abby holds an A.B. degree magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Recognized for her outstanding teaching, Abby received the Yale College Prize Teaching Award. She also created a popular Yale College seminar, “Narratives of Art: Nineteenth-Century Fiction and the Visual Arts.” She has garnered generous research and study grants from numerous institutions, including the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Abby lives in Newton with her husband and their two daughters, all of whom participated in the creation of Step Into Art, Inc.
SUSAN FOSTER JONES, SENIOR EDUCATOR
Susan Foster Jones has been a valued teacher and advisor for Step Into Art since 2007, when she was one of SIA’s first interns. A Museum Educator with over a decade of experience, Susan joined Step Into Art as Senior Educator in the fall of 2014. From 2009 – 2014, Susan was the Director of Education at the Concord Museum in Concord, MA. She continues her work in Concord as the part-time Manager of School Partnerships, working primarily with students from Lowell. Previously, Susan worked with inner-city students from Boston at the Commonwealth Museum, where she taught engaging hands-on history programs. Susan earned a Master’s degree in the Arts in Education program from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA in Art History from Mount Holyoke College. She and her husband Tim live in Concord with their sons, Henry and Charles.
VINEETA VIJAYARAGHAVAN, NOVELIST
Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, a novelist, leads the writing component of Step Into Art’s sixth-grade programs. Joining English teachers at Epiphany School and Mother Caroline Academy, she invites the students to write a creative composition inspired by the paintings they have studied. Vijayaraghavan’s novel Motherland was published by Soho Press in 2001. The Boston Herald called it “a tour de force, taking the reader into those rituals of grief and release where one marvels at the particular and recognizes the universal.” Motherland won a 2002 Alex award from the American Library Association, honoring the best books published for adults with special crossover appeal for teens. The novel was also selected by the New York Times as a “New and Noteworthy” paperback. Motherland has been taught at both universities and high schools, and Vijayaraghavan has been invited to present to school assemblies, book groups, and ethnic associations. In 2010, Motherland was chosen by Skokie, Illinois as their citywide reading selection for the year. Vijayaraghavan was born in India and raised in the United States. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters.
MARGERY SOKOLOFF, TEACHER LEADER
Margery Sokoloff is the Assistant Director of the Teacher Leadership Program and a Field Instructor for Secondary English teachers in the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) program at Brandeis University. Margery has worked as an educator since 1989 and as a teacher educator since 2006 when she joined the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English. She has a BA and PhD in English Literature from Yale University and has taught English at the high school and college levels at schools in Miami, FL and Boston, MA. Margery loves being a part of the Step Into Art team as a teacher in the 3rd-grade program.
CORAZON HIGGINS, ARTIST EDUCATOR
Corazon Higgins is an artist and educator who was born and raised in Boston. She started painting as a young child and went on to study at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her teaching includes both art and English language skills, which she strives to integrate in order to use creativity as a vehicle for communication and cultural exchange. Cora has exhibited in the US and abroad and served as an artist-in-residence at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. She is currently a teaching fellow in the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which advocates for arts for all students in all subjects.
KAREN TROP, MUSEUM TEACHER AND PROGRAM ASSISTANT
Karen Trop holds a BA in Art History from Bennington College, where she served as a board member on the college’s Student Endowment for the Arts. Continuing her passion for arts advocacy, she was the Social Media Manager for a global arts appreciation organization, Slow Art Day. Currently pursuing a master’s degree in Library and Information Science at Simmons College with a concentration in Cultural Heritage Informatics, she has archival and library experience from work at the Harvard Art Museum Archives, the American Academy in Rome, and the Expatriate Archive Center in The Hague, the Netherlands. Prior to joining the Step Into Art team, she worked as a deejay and award-winning radio producer – as a host of a student achievement profile series and organizer of several radio-based outreach programs for kids in grades K-12. She lives in Boston.
HANNAH VARDEN, TEACHING ARTIST
Hannah Varden is an artist and educator currently enrolled in the MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching) program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, graduating with highest honors in the Echols Scholar program and completing majors in both Political Science and Studio Art, with a focus on print-making and photography. Her connection with Step Into Art began through SIA’s partnership with Mother Caroline Academy, where she served as the acting art teacher from 2017-2019. She has taught general studio arts curriculum at the middle school level and has served as an AmeriCorps Museum Educator at the Providence Children’s Museum. Hannah is a proponent of interdisciplinary arts education and breaching barriers to museum accessibility, both of which are values exemplified by the Step Into Art program.