Students learn life skills in high school art
(May 25, 2107)
When you walk into the high school art room, you are greeted by the sounds of saw blades, buffing wheels, and students hard at work receiving instruction from Tiffany Wiles, high school art teacher.
Wiles started teaching art in college while getting her education degree and has been teaching at Silver Lake for 10 years. But this career isn’t what she had always envisioned.
“I originally wanted to be a photographer, and I did some research and found that it was going to be really hard for me to make a living as a photographer. So I decided to get my teaching certificate as a backup so that I could maybe make a living. Then it kind of ended up being what I did with my life,” Wiles explained.
Her creative passion was sparked earlier in her life.
“My love for art began toward the end of my high school career when I decided I wanted to be a photographer. I just thought it sounded like a cool job. I do like the other humanities, the other fine arts like choir and theater. I did a lot of that in high school as well. But my love for art really began in high school,” she said.
She shared her favorite part about her job.
“The best part of teaching art is watching a kid get something. Watching them understand what I’m trying to tell them because sometimes I’ve been trying to tell it to them for two or three weeks and then suddenly it snaps in their brain, and that’s pretty awesome,” Wiles said.
Catie Beam, freshman, has taken three of Wiles’s classes this year including Art Exploration, Ceramics, and Jewelry. She shared the best part about being involved with the art program.
“My favorite part about art class is the variety of projects that we get to do,” Beam said. She explained what she liked about the high school art teacher of 10 years.
“The thing that I like most about Ms. Wiles and her teaching is how she comes up with so many different projects that are completely different than the last one,” Beam said.
Wiles and Beam both agreed that art teaches lots of hands-on skills that sometimes can’t be learned in a normal classroom.
“I think art is an important elective for a student because of those skills that you learn in art that maybe you don’t get to learn anywhere. We do a lot of problem solving, especially in Art Exploration. That’s one of the big things that we do. They have to figure out how they mix the number of values that I’m asking for in a painting project.
“We incorporate a lot of math in Drawing. So I think we learn a lot of life skills in art, and I think that’s why it’s important,” Wiles explained.
Beam has experienced having to use those problem solving skills firsthand.
“Some important skills that I’ve learned include dealing with the frustration of having your projects fall apart and having to start over,” she said.
Wiles shared the school art project she’s had the most fun doing.
“When I was in college I got to take a really cool photography class. It was Photography 2, and we worked with a lot of absorbent papers to print our photos on in the dark room. So once I put my photo on a fiber paper, I got to use watercolors on it and do a hand colored photograph and I really liked that. That was my favorite piece that I did. It took me probably a few hours. But with the shooting in the dark room and everything, it would probably bump up those numbers of hours,” Wiles said.
Beam explained a more recently finished project.
“My favorite project that I’ve ever done in an art class would be making a ring in jewelry because it was difficult, but at the same time the product of all the work was definitely worth it,” she said.
She then explained the current projects she’s working on in Wiles’s classes.
“In ceramics, the project that we’re working on right now is making a teapot. Not just a normal teapot - a funky teapot. It has to be like an animal or something like that.
“The project we’re working on in jewelry is using negative space by soldering two pieces of metal together. I had to start over once because when I soldered the pieces together they didn’t stick,” Beam shared.
Wiles gave her advice to any junior high student contemplating choosing art as an elective.
“I would tell an eighth-grade student that they should definitely take Art Ex, just because we’re going to learn a lot of basic skills that we would apply in the rest of the art classes that they would take,” she shared.
Beam explained why she chose art as an eighth grader.
“I chose to take an art class as an elective because I enjoy being creative and making things on my own,” she said.
There’s no doubt about it, Wiles has made the art program something special.
“I think the Silver Lake art program is unique because we have a variety of opportunities that not everyone is able to receive on a daily basis like we are,” Beam said.
Tiffany Wiles, high school art teacher, helps students assemble prom decorations. (Photo by Rivers Schwenn)
Macey Clark, sophomore, saws away at her jewelry project in Wiles's class. (Photo by Rivers Schwenn)
Calen Schuckman, junior, sands down a plaster block for a pewter casting project in jewelry class. (Photo by Rivers Schwenn)