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Veteran Gaw has unique teaching ability

By: Carson Sams/ J1 Staff

Clyde Gaw is a beloved member of the community and long-time art teacher. He has an interesting art background and teaching ability. He has worked at the elementary school and now currently works at the high school. He has worked as an art teacher for 33 years, and because of this, he has an interesting art “story”.

Clyde says,“I think I figured out near the end of my high school years that I could be a good teacher of art because I was good at art and I could work well with children”. “One time, the principal at my old elementary school asked me to coach these little kids in a wrestling match. I worked well with children.” “My mom thought becoming an art teacher was a good idea.”“I was the first person to graduate from college in my family except for a couple of my uncles.”

Clyde said that his teaching is different than most art teachers. I try to have as much fun as possible while still being productive.” “I try to give students pinpoint information about their art. My instruction is more customized.”

He said he had a great experience at New Palestine Elementary.“I got a job at a place called New Palestine Elementary in 1985. That was the best job I ever had.”Nikki Gardner, a co worker and art teacher that works directly next to Clyde said “When I was applying for my job at the highschool, I was waiting at the office and Mr. Gaw popped out of Mr. Fessler’s office and we were both applying to work here. Mr. Gaw came out and gave me a hug and generally said good things about me to Mr. Fessler, like a “letter of recommendation.” Clyde said that he recalls one amazing adventure at New Palestine Elementary. “One time, we built this huge structure. The kids built under the tables and they stacked blocks end to end around the tables. At the end of the building event, a kid at the end said ready, go! He touched one block and he set off a giant chain reaction. The whole room came alive with these blocks. For two minutes these blocks were going down. At the end of the chain reaction, there was a huge tower and it collapsed. It was like the finishing touch to this whole thing. That was a real fun event.””During class, there are kids making paintings, kids going outside to build with marble runs, kids would go outside to draw and paint nature and do nature studies, kids who would do puppet shows in the class, kids who would make huge airplanes and fly them in the hallway, kids who painted landscapes and animal pictures, all kinds of different art, and there were kids that would write about their art.”

Rhys Deiter, one of Clyde’s art students reveals his thoughts about Clyde. “He’s a very unique teacher.” “He’s not your average art teacher.” “He’s a lot more involved in his teaching.” Clyde has also been making art while teaching the kids. He can do it while he is in the middle of class or in his free time because of how he teaches. “One time we were making paper mache experiments and from those experiments, we were making masks in art class at New Pal elementary and from my knowledge of making cardboard and paper mache, I made something called cardboard mache. I entered this international art contest called art prize and my art piece proposal was a 20-foot-long cardboard mache relief sculpture, an abstract relief sculpture and it was accepted by the Greater Grand Rapids Fine Arts Counsel accepted it as one of their five sponsored pieces for this big international competition. They only allowed 2,000 art pieces from all across the world.”

Clyde has some interesting philosophy when it comes to his students and teaching them. “I do something called emergent curriculum. That is also democratic education. What that means is children have to come to class with an idea, and instead of them doing asks for me, I want them to do tasks for themselves, so they become the boss. Many children don’t realize it, but being a boss is hard work. I always tell kids you gotta do research to come up with ideas. I don’t like kids to be task rabbits for somebody else. I like kids to task themselves.” Nikki has differences and similarities when it comes to teaching, “We both care a lot about our students and their ability to problem solve, and their ability to be autonomous, independent, and critical thinkers. Mr. Gaw comes from a more philosophical place with his teaching. It is a lot more conceptual and my teaching style is generally more technical.”

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Photo by: Carson Sams

Clyde Gaw is teaching his sixth period class on their art.