Marla McLean“The thing I love most about teaching and working at SWS is… Dreaming utopia into reality (as an Atelierista in a Reggio Emilia Inspired DC Public School) with remarkable, creative, and kind teachers, staff, and community.

The thing I am most proud of is…. Ariana and Isaiah, my children, who have grown into adults that I love to learn from and spend time with.

In my free time I enjoy… Travel, making and viewing art, family, nature, friends, music, theatre, reading, making and eating good food, dancing, solitude

A visitor to my Studio/Atelier can expect to see… A maker-space where children are actively involved in: making visible their understandings through collaboration, observation, imagination, exploration, reflection, joy, perseverance, exploration, invention, conversation, upcycling, transforming, a plethora of media and materials, endless possibilities, rigor, beauty, and creating culture as opposed to consuming it.

I am passionate about teaching children because … Teaching is social justice and activism. Children are our youngest citizens. Helping them recognize their strengths within a small group is inspiring. Teaching them that the worst bad word is “can’t,” gives hope. Giving them the gift and possibility of “making” is thrilling. Facilitating flexible, expansive thinking, loving, creative, collaborative, persevering, and kind humans is humbling work. Learning from children’s insights and actions expands my being and heart. And all those hugs!”


Ms. McLean came to SWS in 1997, just two years after the school started. She brings a Masters Degree, New York University, Studio Art (NYC and Venice, Italy) and a Bachelors Degree, Social Art and Education, Godard College, (Plainfield, VT) and an ssociate’s Degree, Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Photography/Multimedia (Pittsburgh, PA).

Her other teaching and experiences include:

  • George Washington University/ Corcoran College of Art, BFA/MAT, Art and Science-Developing Creativity, Graduate Thesis Advisor, Adjunct Professor
  • Vermont College of Art, Art Ed/MAT Low Residency Program, Founding Faculty, Art Education Curriculum writing and advising
  • 3 Tours to Reggio Emilia Italy
  • Life Experience that provokes my learning; playing in a band, creating in my studio at Passageways, travel (nationally and abroad), presenting/consulting as an Atelierista/Artist, volunteer experiences, and daily exploration in even small ways

Ms. McLean is a member of NAREA (North American Reggio Emilia Alliance) and NAEA (National Art Educators Association). She received the Chancellors Award for Outstanding DC Arts Teacher (2009) and an Expert Teacher designation from DC Public Schools (2014).