As the new art teacher for both the Lanesboro and Chatfield school districts, Abby Potter is excited to once again be teaching and surrounded by art. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
As the new art teacher for both the Lanesboro and Chatfield school districts, Abby Potter is excited to once again be teaching and surrounded by art. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER

Lanesboro Public Schools has brought in two new teachers to the school system for the 2014-2015 school year. One of these teachers is the new art teacher, Abby Potter.

Potter grew up in Rochester, coming from a very artistic family, and graduated from Century High School. Though she loved art, she was not sure how to make it into a profession. But then her sister attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, which has a very reputable education and art program. Potter also attended school in River Falls, graduating in 2013 with a degree in art education.

"I liked to teach people how to do things," she said. "I liked to train new people at work, but I did not really know much about teaching until I took the teaching classes."

After graduation, she returned to Rochester, working a couple of jobs and subbing in the Rochester school district. Of course, she also did student teaching in New Richmond, Wis.

At the beginning of the summer, while simply looking for teaching positions, she learned of an opening at Chatfield Public School for an art teacher.

"My dad mentioned the job because one of his coworkers lives in Chatfield and heard about it. He said to look at it," Potter said.

When it popped up a couple of times, she applied for the position. When she heard back from Chatfield, they set up a phone interview since there were time conflicts.

"I thought it was a part-time position at Chatfield. But when I was on the phone interview, they mentioned that Lanesboro was also on the phone and wanted to talk to me," Potter noted.

What Potter initially believed to be a part-time position soon ballooned into a full-time position shared between both schools. Potter received the position not very long after speaking with the two school districts.

"I got hired really fast in June or July," she said.

Some might wonder at the distance she would have to travel in order to work at both schools. But for her, distance was one of her least concerns.

"I student taught in New Richmond which was about 20 miles from River Falls, so the distance didn't phase me a bit," Potter explained.

Rather than being worried about the drive between the two schools, Potter is much more excited to be returning to the classroom.

"I'm just excited to being back in the classroom. It's hard to not be. When I moved back, I lost all the studio space and did not have a job. Now I'm back in a room doing what I want to do," she expressed.

Potter will be the art teacher for grades seven through 12 at Lanesboro in the morning, teaching art, drawing and painting, mixed media and homeroom. Before the clock even strikes 12 p.m., she will be on her way to Chatfield for her afternoon classes there.

Working in two public school systems, Potter has already been able to identify how different they can be.

"I see how different districts do things and its kind of fun to compare the two. Teacher workdays are different. Chatfield has half-day workdays and Lanesboro has full-day workdays. Spring breaks differ. Chatfield is a little more scheduled," she explained.

Being back in a place that has the space to be artistic is by no means the only thing Potter is looking forward to.

"I am excited to meet the kids and see what they are interested in. If they have to do something they are not interested in, they won't try," she noted.

Potter does have several challenges facing her as well. This year is her first year as a teacher and the seventh and eighth grade class will be a mere quarter long. In this case, she will need to discover how much to squeeze into the quarter. Another challenge is teaching in a shorter period than she has ever taught in previously.

She also expects there will be comparisons between herself and the previous art teacher.

Still, Potter is excited with this new challenge facing her. Besides, she likes seeing people grow in their talents.

"I like to see students grow and figure things out. They think they may not use things from other classes, but they do," Potter said.

She spoke of students she taught while student teaching who had an A- in the class, and came to her to find out how to raise the grade to an A+. While the motivation is great, she cautioned against wanting to be perfect right away.

"You can't expect to be perfect when you come in. If you do, you will be disappointed later," she commented.

As she begins teaching, Potter will be using discussion methods and critiques in her art classes, giving the students ways to grow as artists.

"Rather than teaching them the principles, I want them to find a way to grow as artists and work on whatever interests them," she noted.

Of course, there will be some lecturing on art history, a few slides and then a project and work time. Students will be able to learn different techniques and social interactions. Seventh and eighth graders will be taught in the same manner as the freshmen.

"I will teach the seventh and eighth graders like freshman. The lesson plans I have can be adapted to levels and are really easy to take to the next level," she explained. "I think if they are treated like adults, they will rise to the occasion."

Even with a large group, Potter looks forward to meeting her new charges and getting to know them. She hopes to touch base with each student at least once every day.

"I want the younger kids to learn about art and want to come back to it in high school. And I want the high schoolers to harness their skills and be able to learn art in other forms of media," Potter said.

Working with art does not stop out of the classroom for this teacher. Right now she is exploring her interests again, working on reading books she never finished, cooking and emphasizing fiber art to a certain extent, although it may be a little difficult to dye items in an apartment.

This year brings a lot of firsts for this new art teacher, but she plans on meeting the challenges head on.