By Henry Mei ‘18
Being dedicated and passionate about the subjects she teaches, Ms. Elizabeth Bouiss, the video production and graphic design teacher, never thought she’d be a teacher because she has always identified herself as a filmmaker.
“It’s [a filmmaker] really who I am,” said Ms. Bouiss. “It’s a default career.”
Ms. Bouiss grew up in Portland, Oregon. She was 14 years old, when she first became inspired to become a filmmaker.
“I saw these films that totally moved me,” said Ms. Bouiss. “These images moving on screen were so beautiful. It was a new language that I can actually speak and use to express myself with, in a way since I can’t really draw, but I’m an artistic soul. It actually gave me a medium and a means to express my thoughts, creative ideas, and viewpoints.”
In high school, she was in a film program where she made her first movies by using Super 8 Film. From then on, she had to shoot each individual frame and would then run the films to the lab to have them developed. She always knew that filmmaking was her.
For college, she wanted to go to film school, but back then, her choices were limited since she “had no exposure to art, certainly not filmmaking.” When she came to New York, the diversity and the whole feel of the city just seemed right to her. She applied to New York University (NYU) and was accepted with a full scholarship. At NYU, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television degree and Masters of Educational Technology degree.
Throughout her filmmaking career, Ms. Bouiss has made numerous films. Her films have made it to festivals, received grants and were shown on PBS and National Geographic.
One film that was a highlight for her was a documentary about the women who served in the Vietnam War. She wanted to beautify a real and sad story since the story of the women who served in Vietnam was not told at that point.
“I was in Washington D.C. for Veteran’s Day and there were a lot of Vietnam veterans,” said Ms. Bouiss. “The film was almost done and I didn’t really have an ending. But we went into a hotel room and showed the work print and the vets said, ‘Thank you, you told our story.’”
It was because of that moment that Ms. Bouiss knew she wanted to be “a vehicle for the voice of the voiceless or just express artistically beautiful thoughts and ideas.”
While Ms. Bouiss was living an artistic life as a filmmaker, she added teaching as another occupation due to family matters. She has taught at a number of schools including South Bronx High School and John Dewey High School.
Ms. Bouiss has been teaching at Midwood for 4 years. She said she likes the size and the diversity of the school and that “Midwood’s crown jewel is this amazing, diverse population of young people.” Ms. Bouiss currently teaches video production and graphic design. She describes teaching graphic design as more enjoyable and less draining than video production. For graphic design, the class meets in the Mac Lab in room 480 with the new Macs allow every student to have a computer of their own.
“It’s [film] a very difficult subject to teach if students are not interested but it is engaging because you get to be on a computer, and it encompasses sound and visual,” said Ms. Bouiss. “Graphic design, I just enjoy teaching because especially now that we have a functioning Mac Lab, I can actually use in a way that it was meant to be used. I feel like they [the students] are finally getting the best of what I have to offer. It’s [the course] interesting and there’s always more to learn.”
Ms. Bouiss said teaching is not entirely different from filmmaking but has its limits.
“I don’t like the hierarchical structure of the Board of Education and teaching,” said Ms. Bouiss. “Teaching has its artistic elements but I don’t like the set requirements of being at a certain place at a certain time and having a test as an end result. And if a student isn’t passionate about the subject, it’s really draining on me since I’m very open to everyone’s energy.”
For Ms. Bouiss, the part that she enjoys the most about teaching is the students, especially those who want to try. She describes it as “a mutual experience” to work with and be around young people and watching them grow by learning from and giving to. She wants her students to take away a passion for ideas and expression and the ability to formulate questions about our world from her class.
“I don’t care if they [the students] aren’t talented, have a design sense, or particularly good at editing,” said Ms. Bouiss. “What’s great is that I have some students that do this work and I look at it and know that they put so much effort into it and that they try.”
She sees potential in her students and acknowledges that they are far more capable of success than they know. She is proud of the work that all her students produce and is even prouder when they get recognized.
“Some students that might not excel in an academic course can do very well in an artistic course,” said Ms. Bouiss. “My students have just produced breath-taking, gorgeous, beautiful work and it was nice seeing them [the students] and some of those successful projects at the festivals.”
During her free time, Ms. Bouiss loves to spend time with her dog, go on walks, and be in the mountains.
“I adore the northwest, where I’m from, in the mountains especially. We have real mountains there,” said Ms. Bouiss. “Hiking is my favorite activity in the world. I’m communing with nature and I enjoy the solitude.”