OREGON – Introducing elementary school kids to the many styles and perspectives of art can be rewarding – literally and figuratively. Just ask Oregon Elementary School art teacher Jordan DeWilde.
DeWilde recently was honored by the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Those Who Excel” program, achieving the top award of excellence in the Early Career Educator category.
“Art teachers aren’t always acknowledged or respected; it was an honor to be nominated by my administrator," he said.
DeWilde grew up in Taylorville in central Illinois, the son of two passionate educators. His mom was an art teacher who always had art supplies on hand and creative projects to do, so it’s easy to see where his journey began, although wasn’t always certain he wanted to be a teacher himself.
“I’m not certain I believe in an innate artistic ability – at the very least, not that I had one,” DeWilde said. “I practiced it constantly, and as I practiced, I got better; as I got better, my interest increased. It’s a lot like sports – or anything, really – in that regard.”
He attended Western Illinois University in Macomb in 2005, pursuing an interest in broadcasting. The art bug bit again, though, and by 2009, he had earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting with a double major in art.
He studied and loved a variety of artistic styles and techniques.
“I knew I wanted to continue employing all the different things I learned; painting, ceramics, printmaking, all of it. And really, what job could I get where I could do all of it?” he said.
With that, DeWilde attended Illinois State University in Normal, where he completed his teaching certificate and graduate classes in 2012, the same year he began teaching at Oregon Elementary School. He earned his master’s degree last year.
Forging your own passion is one thing; how do you then project that passion so others can learn? It helps when you are allowed to take the ball and run with it, and DeWilde was encouraged to create his own curriculum from the start.
“I can teach things I’m really passionate about and have an interest in, and the kids know if you care about what you’re teaching or not,” he said. “It’s so cool to share that passion and see the students echo my excitement.”
Eight-year-old Libby Patterson is one of his little echoes. "I love to draw in the car, at home, everywhere," the third-grader said. "Mr. DeWilde is very talented with art, and it helps me because I tend to make mistakes and he helps me figure out where to correct them."
Fellow third-grader August Schwartz, also 8, says DeWilde is "nice, funny, and gets us thinking about lots of different kinds of art. The projects he has us do are creative, and I like them."
His curriculum tends to mimic his college studies, and features a variety of inspirations and projects. In addition to a range of artistic techniques, his students study and recreate art from nations around the world.
“I think it’s important to have a positive representation of all people, because everyone throughout history has made art,” DeWilde said. “I want the students to see that all cultures, not just their own, have made great art, that art is for everyone.”
For example, his class is studying poetry, music, and artwork from the Harlem Renaissance.
DeWilde also uses social media to spread art awareness, and often shares pictures not only of a finished project, but also of the exploration along the way.
Social media also has allowed DeWilde and his students to reach out to contemporary artists. After studying and performing art pieces in the vein of South African artist Garth Erasmus, DeWilde contacted Erasmus, who responded, thankful for and proud of the students' work.
Now, that's rewarding.
CHECK OUT THEIR WORK
Oregon Elementary School art teacher Jordan DeWilde uses social media to share art created by him, surrounding communities, and especially his students.