Actress Sally Field claimed, “A mother is not someone you lean on. A mother is someone who makes leaning unnecessary.” I once told my mom that Field’s character on the television program, Brothers & Sisters, reminded me of her. Field portrayed Nora Walker, a strong and loving mother, greatly concerned in the lives of her children. My mom embodied all of these qualities and so many more.
She continues to inspire me every single day. She had so many passions in life. Family and friends were always her top priority. Of course she absolutely loved teaching art, and all of her other interests found their way into the classroom. Her love for travel inspired new projects to share with students each year. She was constantly learning something new to become a better teacher.
One of our last conversations included sharing different project ideas. She helped me brainstorm for an upcoming lesson, while writing down plans for her own students. I remember her great enthusiasm that day. Her passion for teaching never wavered. I hope to one day become the kind of teacher both of my parents inspired.
I wish I could share all of the joys and struggles of teaching art with my mom. Fortunately, I have a great family and supportive friends to lean on, but I am also comforted in knowing my mom instilled so much of herself in me, that leaning may indeed be unnecessary.
Below are images of my mom's artwork:
1. What inspired you to be a teacher?
I’ve loved learning about art and creating for as long as I can remember. I pursued a career in education because I wanted to share that with others. My parents also inspired my path to become a teacher. My dad is a high school history and government teacher. My mom was an art teacher, and also taught English, literature and social studies. I grew up spending time after school in their classrooms, hearing stories over dinner, and getting to know their coworkers as family friends. I was a student in each of their classrooms. My parents are incredible educators, so seeing them excel and have passion for their careers was very inspiring.
2. How long have you worked for the district?
I started working for the district in August of 2012.
3. What's the best thing about being a teacher?
The best thing about being a teacher is having the opportunity to impact a student’s life each and every day.
4. Why did you choose the subject/elementary grades to teach in?
I became an art teacher so that I could share my interests in art, culture and history. I chose to teach at the elementary level so I could have the opportunity to help provide students with a strong foundation for future art courses.
5. What is the most memorable moment of your teaching career?
The most memorable moment of my teaching career has been going along with third grade students to the Art Institute in Chicago. Kelly Handschuh has organized this incredible field trip year after year. I will never forget watching students see a famous artwork in person for the first time, or teaching a lesson about artist Marc Chagall in front of his stained glass American Windows.
6. Who is your hero?
My mom is my hero, not only because she was a great art teacher, but because she was an incredible person, selfless and generous to her family, friends and students. I try my best to follow her example. She passed away last October, but she was so thrilled that I had found my dream job, teaching art at Oregon Elementary School.
7. Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?
Aside from my parents, my favorite teacher growing up was Gary McCullough. Mr. McCullough was also my cross country coach for four years in high school. He always told the best stories to teach lessons beyond the textbook.
8. What is the best advice you have ever received?
Last summer I attended a conference for new teachers. The keynote speaker was Manuel Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers. His entire speech was inspiring, but the best advice I received was to never doubt my ability to change a life, or to change the world. We are all capable of making a great impact just as we are.
9. Favorite food and band?
I love fried chicken almost as much as I love Fleetwood Mac.
10. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People may be surprised to learn that my undergraduate degree is in broadcasting. I went to Western Illinois University and studied broadcasting because I was interested in writing and television production. Although I loved the work, I never felt the same passion that I do about teaching art. I double-majored in art studio and then pursued my teaching certificate and graduate studies in art education at Illinois State University.
11. What have you had to do to be certified as a teacher?
I took many different courses in teaching practices and art to become a certified teacher. I was able to learn from experienced professionals through observations. I collaborated with teachers on lessons with different age groups and settings. One of the best experiences was having the opportunity to coordinate an art experience for the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal.
12. What do you do in the summer to prepare for the new school year?
I prepare for the new school year by visiting museums, going to conferences and having conversations with other artists and educators. Last summer I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum and I immediately started thinking of ideas to incorporate into my curriculum. I also began helping with the Oregon Fields Project. This local organization educates our community about the importance art and agriculture have in our lives. These artists and members of the community helped me prepare lessons about our rich history of local artwork to share with students.
13. What is the most important idea you want your students to leave with?
I want students to leave my class each year having experienced at least one project, theme or artist they can identify with. I want each student to understand art as a universal language to enjoy and share with the world.
Mr. DeWilde's Blog
I post information about projects and learning experiences from my curriculum.