Community Arts Partner

Participant Details

Community Arts Partner Name
Rachel Kessler
Partner Type
Profile Photo
Individual Bio or
Organizational Statement
Rachel Kessler is a poet, essayist, performing artist, and multidisciplinary collaborator working as a teaching artist in Washington for 17 years. She has taught through Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Seattle’s Washington Middle, Ballard High, BF Day Elementary, and Whittier Elementary schools, Port Townsend’s Blue Heron School, and Shoreline’s Cascade K-8. She also teaches innovative creative writing youth intensives through Centrum’s Middle School Explorations in Port Townsend and Hugo House’s Scribes Program in Seattle. Through Path With Art she teaches adults in recovery from homelessness, addiction, and other trauma. She has been a guest teaching artist at King County’s juvenile detention, Seattle and King County Public Libraries, and guest lecturer at the University of Washington’s Rome Center, UW Friday Harbor Labs, Highline College, and elsewhere.   Rachel’s books include Who Are We? (with 7-inch record) and The Rendezvous Reader. Her Public Health Poems, an interactive hand-washing poetry installation, received a Seattle Office of Arts & Culture award, and can be found in public restrooms throughout King County. Her text-based visual art has been featured in The Open Daybook and Alaska Quarterly Review, her poems appear in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Poetry Northwest, and her essays are published in The Stranger and Seattle Metropolitan, among other publications. As co-founder of acclaimed literary performance groups The Typing Explosion and Vis-à-Vis Society, she has collaborated, written, performed, and created installations nationally and internationally, including during the Venice Bienale, at The Frye Art Museum, and the Bellevue Arts Museum. She has shared the stage with Macklemore, The Blues Scholars, John Ashberry, and Billy Collins, performing at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Bowery Poetry Club, DIA Chelsea and Beacon NY, The University of Arizona Poetry Center, The Moore Theater, among other places. She received both King County 4Culture and Seattle City Artist awards to complete her current work-in-progress, a book about the intersection of puberty and spirituality.

Contact Information

First Name
Last Name
318 26th Avenue
Address 2

Grade Levels Preferred

Grade Levels Preferred
K-2, 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th

Artistic Disciplines

Visual Poetry, Video Poems, Performance Art, Personal Essay
Literary Art or Spoken Word/Performance Poetry, Multidisciplinary


Previous School Partnerships
Other Trainings or Certifications
Sample Lesson Description: Student / Classroom Residencies
Sample Workshop Description: Teacher Professional Development

Areas of Experience and Expertise

Approved Professional Development Provider
Approved Classroom Residency Provider

Lesson Plan

Integrated Art
Cultural Art

Teaching Approach

Teaching Philosophy + Approach
bell hooks writes, "The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is - it's to imagine what is possible." With words, we can search for identity, share our experiences, and we can dream. Understanding through exploration is my ideal. I appreciate the unique histories my students bring with them to the classroom. I learn from the students I am privileged to work with.     My residencies include an initial planning meeting and observation. Then I design a curriculum to fit the needs of the teacher, classroom, and school, which I submit to my partnering teachers for review and input. I recognize the diverse ways we acquire language and communicate. As a Creative Advantage Partner, my job is to encourage and facilitate creativity. An arts-integrated learning environment provides choices and scaffolding to support a wide array of learning styles, while fostering critical thinking.   I give regular feedback to students through personalized comments in class and in their journals. I guide students through editing and selecting their best work to compile into a classroom anthology. I value verbal participation as well as the written word, and encourage structured and improvised collaboration between students. Our work takes place on the page and out loud.
Curriculum Integration Possibilities
Science, the natural world, math, and history inspire my work as a literary artist. I designed and implemented curriculum integrating science and poetry in elementary and middle schools. I presented this as a guest lecturer at Northwest College's Education Department. Developed with an education specialist at the Pacific Science Center, I used key concepts about plant communication to lead a discussion with 2nd-5th graders, who responded via collaborative question and answer poetry. We also looked at molecules in motion in a still glass of water by adding a few drops of blue food coloring, making predictions, watching what happens and writing down our observations. We then got up and moved like molecules at different temperatures: slow and far apart when frozen, then faster and closer as a liquid, until we heated to a gas and moved frenetically, pushing (gently) off each other. An example of a 2nd grader's poem to come out of this: "I'm a drop of blue dye. When I hit the water, I sink. I explode. I swirl like a dragon guarding its treasure. I twirl like a tornado hitting everything in its path. Then I am still. Sort of." We learned about cause and effect by looking at Rube Goldberg machines in comic strips, and videos of enormous, complicated ones, and then trying out making our own on paper, and using this as a poetry prompt. A 4th grader wrote this Rube Goldberg Machine poem: "How To Drink Water. Visit a place that has a ton of water. It has to rain a lot. Pick a comfortable spot to lie down. Open your mouth and wait until it rains."
Special Skills and Areas of Expertise
Through WITS I have had the opportunity to work with ELL and Special Education students in the classroom, as well as working with special needs individuals. I have worked with homeless adults, people in recovery, and youth in detention through organizations like Path With Art, King County Public Library, and the Hugo House.
Testimonials from Schools
Sarah Lockenvitz, NBCT, Washington Middle School Humanities teacher, 206-252-2650 Martha Worthley, Centrum, Program Manager 360-385-3102 x 120, 360-301-1494 cell Jeanine Walker, WITS Program Director, Seattle Arts & Lectures, (206) 621-2230, x13 Rebecca Hoogs, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Associate Director (206) 621-2230   Further references available upon request




Image Description
Environmental interactive writing prompt at Centrum's Explorations Middle School intensive camp.
Image Description
Collaborative improvised poem made with voice and yarn at Centrum's Explorations camp.
Image Description
Collaborative improvised poem made with voice and yarn at Centrum's Explorations camp.
Image Description
Blue Heron fourth-grader Angel-Ray Genaw draws a continuous line in tracing the features of her face onto a sheet of paper Thursday morning, Dec. 4 during Amy Wilson's language arts class lead by Rachel Kessler, one of a small troupe of professional
Image Description
Collaborative improvised poem made with voice and yarn at Centrum's Explorations camp.


Video Description
Vis-a-Vis Society collaborative, improvised video poem - premeired in Velocity Dance Center's 2015 Next Dance Cinema
Video Description
Short documentary about the Vis-a-Vis Society and Typing Explosion
Video Description
Seattle Channel coverage of "Public Health Poems"