Flourishing Creativity
Mimi Stanton

Art is an integral part of our students’ day. Veteran teacher Mrs. Trixy Zielke usually displays her students’ artwork throughout the hallways at school. Her classroom serves as a creative outlet for students. From ceramics to painting and drawing, students are free to explore their artistic side. 

But early in the year, Mrs. Zielke started hearing a very bleak picture of the COVID-19 pandemic from her friends who taught at Concordia International School Shanghai, where she once taught. “My immediate thought was, ‘I hope it doesn’t come here,’” she remembered.

Initially, Mrs. Zielke said she didn’t understand why her friends couldn’t come to visit while Shanghai schools were closed. “They tried to tell me they were busy every second of the day, adapting to home learning,” she said. “Now that we are experiencing it, I get it.” 

Mrs. Zielke said she has been able to draw on home learning advice given from her friends who are still based in Shanghai. Even so, as an art teacher, she has had some unique challenges. “For ceramics class, I had to look up each student’s address and order air dry clay to be sent to their individual homes. I received some hilarious emails from students thinking they had gotten off the hook from art class for the year,” she said.

Some students’ work has flourished at home.

The first weeks at home were admittedly a huge learning curve. “My classes are very hands on,” Mrs. Zielke explained, “so it was very different to write everything down, take videos of myself, and try to post them.”

But still, she persevered. Mrs. Zielke notes that creating art projects at home has been an adjustment for some students who are used to daily feedback. “I now ask them to send me a picture daily for critique and to help them along the way,” she said.

Some other students’ work, though, has flourished at home. “Because they can’t see what others have created and their work is not constrained by the 45-minute class time, some students have taken their projects in very new and interesting directions,” Mrs. Zielke said.

In addition to teaching art, Mrs. Zielke is the yearbook advisor. With the cancellation of all spring activities, a large hole has been left in the yearbook. “I’ve already met with my editors about rearranging the book by category instead and will be giving out assignments to the rest of the yearbook club, too,” she said.

While adapting to teaching from home, Mrs. Zielke also has had to balance caring for three young children of her own. She admits there were some bumps in the road at first for her son. “We had a lot of ripped up pieces of paper thrown at us,” she said, with a laugh, “but we have learned to take many breaks between assignments for a walk or to throw a ball in the backyard.”

Living in a neighborhood with many families from Timothy and church, the Zielkes have tried to brighten their friends’ day by writing jokes on the sidewalk outside their home. “When I see them walk by, I run outside to say hi – but staying six feet away—because I need some sort of outside contact,” she said.

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