The Reluctant Path to an Artistic Future

by Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism

At one point or another we are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Our answers at first might include very basic jobs drawn from our toy-filled world of limited experience: a firefighter, a vet, or a doctor, for example. As we grow, our preferences change and when we are asked this question might be tempted to dish out such parent-pleasers as neurosurgery, computer programming or, at worst, the dreaded “I don’t know.” As scary as this response is, it may actually be a legitimate path that could lead you to the job of your dreams.

Concordia High School Art teacher Ms. Collins took a bit of an unconventional path to being a respected and passionate instructor. ( image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Concordia High School Art teacher Ms. Collins took a bit of an unconventional path to being a respected and passionate instructor. (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Ms. Collins is one of Concordia's art teachers who is beloved by many students who either consider art as a passion or maybe just a simple hobby. For Ms. Collins, however, art was a passion that drew her to where she is today.

During her high school career, Ms. Collins actually focused on taking lots of music classes, but it was during her sophomore year that she made the life-changing decision to pursue art.

“I thought ‘you know what?’ I really like art, I really like drawing, so I switched to track and decided I wanted to go to art school,” recalls Ms. Collins. “I took AP art as a Senior which changed everything for me.”

Ms. Collins got into art school and still had no idea what she wanted to do going forward. It was actually her roommates who opened the door to what she wanted to study. “The girls in my dorm took an Introduction to Textile Design and I decided that that was what I wanted to do.” Ms. Collins continues: “By the time I finished a few years later I realized I wanted to travel and see places, so I took a teaching job for a textile class at another high school.”

This teaching job took Ms. Collins to China.

Nine years later, a colleague helped Ms. Collins see that the time had come for the next stage of her journey. “There was a teacher at my previous school and she had come over [to Concordia],” remembers Ms. Collins. “She said it was a really great school with nice colleagues. A year later there was an opening for an Art Teacher position and I applied. I knew Concordia had a good reputation.”

Mrs. Collins unique classroom teaching makes students like Sophmore Hannah S. excited to work.(i mage: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Mrs. Collins unique classroom teaching makes students like Sophmore Hannah S. excited to work.(image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Ms. Collins was clearly successful in her new role. In the years that followed her transition, she has made an impression on the Concordia community by maintaining a unique classroom setting. She teaches the set skills for an art class like color, paint, plus using different drawing materials.

Reflecting on why students really thrive in her class, Ms. Collins says, “a big part of what forms my art classes is how can I improve on the art education I received when I was in high school.” Not that her own education was poor, she says, but one had to really want to be there in order to learn. “There wasn’t a lot of explanation and we were thrown into assignments… I want to break things down to the basic, so kids can learn how to grow as an artist.’

“Out of all my art teachers, the one that stands out is one of my college professors: Pamela Wiley. She was my very first teacher for the intro class I was taking. She was so cool. She was really chill.”

Ms Collins remembers classes under Ms. Wiley being really fun. “She gave assignments but also made us learn we could have fun with it.” Ms. Collins can still remember the feeling she has in those classes and still has a connection with Ms. Wiley even today. “I still follow her on Instagram She is still a working artist and does great textile art so it’s still inspiring to me to see that she does all of that still.”

At the start of class students are ready to come in and work on their projects  (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

At the start of class students are ready to come in and work on their projects (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

High School is a time in which not only we are trying to decide our identity and our values, t is also a time in which we are trying to figure out our future vocational path. People always have a funny way of planning out their future or not planning out their future. As we leave Concordia we separate and go down different paths to gain different experiences throughout life. One thing is the same for everyone, though: the future is never what we expect and being open to a changing plan isn’t always a bad thing.









Concordia Shanghai