Art is about more than self expression and proper technique; it impacts the way we live and interact. Helping students understand the potential of their creative talents is what inspired Nina Weis to pursue teaching.
The decision has enriched her work as a painter and motivated others to explore their capabilities.
“I went into teaching art as a career because I have always loved the arts and believed that they are not just a venue for self-expression, but a powerful tool through which understanding and societal change can be accomplished,” said Weis.
“While in college, I came to understand how valuable an education in the arts is to an artist. This knowledge not only provided me with technical abilities an artist needs, but also allowed me to understand the contributions of those that came before me. Combining my love for art with teaching seemed like a natural career choice.”
Weis was hired as an art teacher at Farmington High School in 1996. Since then, she has taught Intro to Art, Ceramics 1-4, Drawing & Painting 1-4 and Studio 1-4.
“I enjoy teaching the introductory classes because it is exciting to watch students find a new interest, and to assist them with their learning, while, hopefully, fostering an understanding of how beneficial the arts are for society,” Weis said. “I also like teaching advanced level courses because I find it gratifying to help students who have a passion for making art, encouraging them to stretch their skills and imagination and not be afraid of making mistakes.”
As an educator, Weis believes it necessary to be genuine and motivate students to achieve their full potential.
“Students remember how they were treated long after they have acquired the skills and knowledge presented in the course,” Weis explained. “When a teacher approaches students with respect and kindness, they become open to trying new things because there is no anxiety or risk of embarrassment. I generally start each semester by taking a couple class periods getting to know my students, showing them my work, and talking about my interests and family. I find this provides a relaxed and enjoyable start to the new term, and often relieves the reluctance some high school students feel about drawing in front of their peers.
“I grade the students’ first assignments on participation rather than on ability. This helps students feel more open to sharing and growing in the arts. Once we have created a setting conducive to creating, I find that students are no longer resistant to drawing on blank paper. They don’t rely on hiding behind ‘I can’t do it.’”
One of the most rewarding aspects of Weis’ career is helping students compete in art competitions and build portfolios that they can submit to colleges.
“I have been fortunate to have had many hard working, talented students who have won various art awards, including the Scholastic Arts Competition, and been granted scholarships to pursue art degrees,” said Weis. “It is rewarding to have those students contact me to share their successes after they have moved on from high school.”
Weis credits CCS for preparing her as an artist and for assisting her as a teacher now. Since the College did not offer art education while Weis attended, she went on to receive teacher certification through Marygrove College and a Master in Art Education from Wayne State University in 2002.
“Not only did CCS provide me with an excellent education in the arts, but the College also allowed me the opportunity to study under a faculty who modeled quality teaching as well as mastery of subject matter.”
“Relationships I formed at CCS with faculty, students and industry professionals have impacted my work in several ways. I have partnered with CCS through on-site guest lectures, fieldtrips to campus and guest speakers in my classroom. Several CCS alumni have visited our art department to discuss various career options in the arts with the students and to provide them with practical advice for establishing a successful career.
“I would encourage any young person with a love for the arts and the willingness to work hard to pursue a career in art. I have found great satisfaction in both my painting and teaching. Students quickly learn that practicing, making mistakes, and asking for advice is a natural part of artistic growth.”
She added that Farmington High School is very proud that one of their recent graduates is the recipient of the 2012 CCS Award of Excellence full-tuition competitive scholarship.