Whitney McKinley taught for six years before joining the family at Hiawatha College Prep. She has taught math, science and English as a second language, but her passion is in inspiring students through art.

Whitney’s scholars learn about social justice topics and explore how art can help solve a local, national or global problem that they care about. For some students, this could mean immigration, the mistreatment of animals in zoos, or the positions of presidential candidates. “I love to see the spark that happens as they translating an idea in their head to paper or another medium,” she said. “They are able to express themselves as individuals in a really powerful way.”

As a final project in spring 2015, HCP scholars chose to study graffiti as an important communication tool for youth, as well as the social impacts that it has had on society. A guest artist from Intermedia Arts guided them as they created a graffiti mural that currently hangs in the school’s cafeteria.

Graffiti project

The most unique part about teaching at Hiawatha, she says, is the community of educators. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and that keeps us relevant,” she said. “Everyone here really wants the best for our students.”

In her free time, Whitney likes to knit, bowl, golf and go hiking. She has become especially fond of kayaking, having traversed the waters off Jekyll Island in Georgia, the coast of Hawaii, and many places in between. Before she discovered kayaking Whitney used to go on long motorcycle trips with her father, and once spent 10 days traveling with him from Minnesota to Alaska.