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To Whom an Art Credit May Concern: Talking with Mrs. Ed

As a junior at Bella Vista, my upperclassmen peers and I are starting to look beyond this school, no longer interested in solely high school affairs (the pandemic has catalyzed that as well). Ending our time at Bella Vista begins with graduation, and since freshman year, I always thought one of the school’s oddities has been the required physical or visual arts credit to graduate. Eventually you learn that some colleges do in fact look at this requirement during the application process. To me it’s always been odd that the school requires it, but only suggest three years of a foreign language when that would, in many cases, be more useful.

I’m sure many of us last April, or May were not expecting to be stuck in the midst of a pandemic when we turned in our course selection sheets; I wasn’t. I gave no thought to the idea we’d still be in quarantine nearing a whole year. That may have been wishful thinking, or the common consensus of the time, and since I thought we’d be back last semester I gave myself a fully loaded schedule, except for my art class. Last August, I joined my first glass art Zoom class, and met the teacher, Mrs. Edington, or Mrs. Ed, and the class has become one of the highlights of my week.

I wanted to hear not only from a teacher about distance learning, but from an art teacher, a person many of you may not know, but could relate to nonetheless. You’re still writing essays for English, still reading your history book, still taking science exams, and preparing for AP tests. Despite all that, what you aren’t doing is tremendous. What Mrs. Ed’s classes aren’t doing is an even longer list.

Without further ado, my conversation with Mrs. Ed.

In class, you’ve mentioned you were mostly into the sciences during high school. When, and what was it like, to transition to pursuing a career in the arts? I believe that I was “into the sciences” from high school and into my first two years at UC Davis. I had a great experience taking Glass Art for three years which helped guide my decision to take Design electives in college. Graphic Design and Fantasy Design. My positive experiences in Glass Art and these classes propelled me to switch my major to Graphic Design.

Do you have any advice for students that already want to pursue a career in the arts?

Advice. Hmm…I would say to keep being creative and keep trying new ways to be creative. If you’re a painter, try a different medium like Glass Art or ceramics. It’s great to add new skills so that way when you’re stuck, you can try a different format. Also if you’re interested at all in pursuing the arts, it would be a good idea to keep examples of your work and learn to take good photos of them as well.

How has teaching art changed over time, and with the pandemic as well? [I’ve been an art teacher] for over the past 20 years… That’s a great question. A lot has changed with our society, school, culture, et cetera, so I won’t touch on everything. One thing that is a challenge that has progressed is the ability for students to take the arts. There are so many other courses and requirements that I feel that many lose the opportunity to take glass art or the arts, or mix the arts. They can’t take performing and visual arts. And, it’s also harder to take advanced arts. There isn’t as much room in student’s schedules nor summer school opportunities to free up space. Distance teaching in glass art is extremely challenging. My expectations for students is to be able to create in glass or with glass and this just isn’t the case with COVID-19 restrictions. But I try to stay positive, energetic, and hopeful that my students can still have a positive experience nonetheless.

Everyone was expecting this year to be a challenge, were, or are, there any issues you didn’t anticipate? I was expecting to go back to at least some sort of in-person learning. The fact that we may not nor allow students to sandblast can get me down.

The opposite then, any benefits to teaching art over the computer? Benefits can include not spending energy on classroom management. No vaping, no having to get on my students to clean up their workspace, not as much equipment maintenance and not as many band aids used. No fire drills or active shooters, but I’d still prefer to go back to in-person.

If we go back later this semester, what are some of the things you are most looking forward to? If we go back, the best thing will be to see my students’ faces when they get to see the magic of glass art techniques, to see their faces light up when they proudly show me a project. We could do stained glass, beadmaking, fusing- so much more of the program is yet to be taught. I also love talking with my students, getting to know them as individuals, and seeing them socialize with their peers. I do love the high school environment - rallies, dress up days, dances.

From this alone, one can see the kind of environment glass art has now, and what it could be at its full potential. You see the care Mrs. Ed has for what she teaches and, just like the rest of us, wants to go back and see each other in person again. I think we’d all benefit from hearing our teachers' thoughts, and I wanted Mrs. Ed’s.

To end, I’ll tweak how I started this paper. I, along with many upperclassmen, am taking an art class because of the required credit, not for it. I don’t know if we’ll end up going back this semester, but I do know that advanced glass art is on my short list of classes to take next year.

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