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Local Folks

Get to know Dawn Zalkus

St. Charles woman builds teen voice through art education

ST. CHARLES - St. Charles resident Dawn Zalkus is a Batavia High School art teacher, and an artist in her own right. Reporter Eric Schelkopf talked with Zalkus about the importance of art education, her own artistic pursuits, and her love of teaching.

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.

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.

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.

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