Jo Ann Secor
Leadership in Museum Education '83
I wanted to learn more about diverse learning styles, early learning, and pedagogy. Bank Street’s program was recommended for working professionals asking questions like, ‘How can we create meaningful experiences for students? And how can we create personal entry points?'
When Jo Ann Secor graduated from college, she started out with a question about her future: Should I become an artist or a teacher? Her answer was to take what she had learned studying studio and fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design and combine it with a master’s degree in museum leadership from Bank Street, which launched a highly successful career as both creator and educator.
After teaching art classes to many students in Rhode Island, Jo Ann was asked to lead a new educational program at the Roger William Park Zoo. She developed and then ran the Zoo Education Project, which used a field trip to the zoo to teach children basic skills in math, history, literature, and science, as well as a 12-week training program for the zoo volunteers. She loved teaching children from local schools through creating pre-and post-zoo visit experiences for the classroom. “It was very successful and the kids loved it because we used the lives of zoo animals as a conduit.”
After spending five years training volunteers and teaching the curriculum at the zoo, Jo Ann moved to New York City for a new National Endowment for Humanities project at the Staten Island Children’s Museum, where she developed and led hands-on cultural and creative experiences for children to learn about and explore local history.
As a museum educator, Jo Ann heard about Bank Street’s premier program in museum leadership and enrolled.
“I wanted to learn more about diverse learning styles, early learning, and pedagogy. Bank Street’s program was recommended for working professionals asking questions like, ‘How can we create meaningful experiences for museum visitors?’ And ‘how can we create personal entry points?’’’ At the monthly weekend Bank Street programs, which spanned two years, Jo Ann met museum colleagues from all over the country, took classes at Bank Street and toured many different museums. It was a really wonderful opportunity. We used the city as a laboratory because part of Bank Street’s philosophy was about using your city’s cultural assets.” She graduated with leadership skills and a teaching certification, ready for the next steps in her career.
While working on an exhibit, Jo Ann met Lee Skolnick, then a young architect, and a partnership began to form. They would later marry. The pair married and Jo Ann joined Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership, where Jo Ann is the Director of Interpretive Services/Marketing. The firm specializes in architecture for public and private institutions, including museum planning, exhibition design, and developing educational spaces that cultivate creativity and empower learners of all ages to question, discover, and grow. Their work has included the development of the Aileron Center for Education, an entrepreneurial education and business development center in Dayton, Ohio, and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, which features an interactive museum, educational programming, and special events to inspire young adults and adults to pursue greatness in their own lives, communities, and countries.
Jo Ann believes that her time at Bank Street was an important step that helped her to develop as a leader. “What Bank Street gives you is an extraordinary foundation for creating meaningful experiences for the diversity of the audiences that will be coming to our cultural facilities.”
As a Bank Street Alumni Association Advisory Board Member, Jo Ann remains connected to our alumni community and its rising stars.