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Get to know Dawn Zalkus, high school art educator

Batavia teacher builds students' voice through art

BATAVIA - The Batavia High School Fine Arts Division on Friday and Saturday March 8 and 9, will hold its first Fine Arts Festival at Batavia High School showcasing the work of more than 600 students, along with art demonstrations and lectures by professional artists and student concerts.

Reporter Eric Schelkopf spoke to Batavia High School artist educator Dawn Zalkus about the fesitval and her own artistic endeavors.

What is the idea behind the festival?
The art department as a whole wanted to put together something that would be a celebration of the arts.

We wanted to highlight and celebrate student artwork, and also place importance on their work. The students can also see the work of these professional artists, and understand what it takes to be a professional artist.

Are you an artist yourself?
I do some ceramic work. I've been working with clay since I was 16. The first time I touched clay, I knew I wanted to work with that for the rest of my life, and that's really what kind led me on this path.

Did you know at that time you wanted to do something with the arts?

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. My mom was a teacher as well. She taught second grade in Chicago. I babysat my whole life, I've worked with kids all my life, so it was kind of a natural, joining of the two.
And I wanted to work with high school students most of all.

What's the joy of being a high school art teacher?
[It's]seeing someone who is unsure of themselves really find success in their work and find their personal voice. I love being able to discuss ideas. I love being able to talk about the concepts in their work.

Art is just like football, or just like music, or any other activity that you participate in. You can grow through practice and putting that time in.With hard work, just like anything else, you can become better at it.

How do you achieve your goals in the classroom?
A lot of student involvement and achievement comes through student choice and voice. When students are given the opportunity to build a project in conjunction with the teacher, to have a say in how it is created and what they are creating, their investment increases.

When this happens they have the desire and put forth extra effort and dedication to create stronger technical and conceptual work. When given more ownership over their artwork, they create more original, unique and interesting pieces.

Why is art important?
It says things that words can't express. It gives some students a voice that otherwise would not be heard. It gives them confidence, and helps with their creative thinking.

More information about the festival can be found on its Facebook page at

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