Thanks to teacher Heidy Arts for these staff spotlight features.Spotlight on Susan KoszkaSusan Koszka, a nineteen-year veteran in the East Aurora School District, has taught kindergarten, first, second, fifth, and middle school grades. She has three grown children, has been listed in The Who's Who Among America's Teachers twice, and during her years at home with her children, she wrote parenting articles for regional family magazines. She has been teaching a total of 28 years, and received both her Bachelor degree in elementary education, and her Master of elementary education with a concentration in mathematics, from Buffalo State.
You are described as a teacher with genuine passion for her job. What does that look like day to day?
Thanks for the kind words! I decided that I wanted to be a teacher in first grade when I saw my teacher's supply cabinet and was hooked! I absolutely love what I do and I feel that I learn something new every day! Our classroom family learns from each other.
What is the most important skill or ability a second grade teacher needs to possess?
I think all teachers need to learn as much as they can about the children in their classroom. You cannot teach children unless you really know them. The first assignment I give my student teachers is to take notes and then we discuss each child. Children need to feel valued and understood.
What part of your education or past best prepared you for your job?
As a young teacher I had wonderful mentors. I observed their teaching styles, I asked questions and I also did quite a bit of self-reflection. My own children helped me grow as a teacher. I'm blessed to work with the finest group of educators and I learn from them each and every day!
What do you think is the most crucial message or lesson to get across to your students at their young age?
I want my students to attach value and meaning to what they learn. I want them to be proud of their accomplishments. Confident children succeed!
What kinds of challenges do you face in your classroom?
I think the biggest challenge for any teacher is finding enough time to meet each student's needs. Our days are extremely busy but we must still provide a nurturing and relaxed environment for our students.
Along with continuing to teach students reading skills, what else would you describe as a second grader's needs in school?
We provide many opportunities for second graders to develop independence. The children learn organizations skills, time management, etc. It amazes me how independent they become in one year.
With the reality of budget cuts looming, and the possibility of much larger class sizes, and perhaps less classroom support, how will you prepare yourself?
I have taught in an inclusion setting for the past several years. I have the opportunity to work with many of my colleagues on a daily basis. This dedicated group supports my students and I believe this team approach is crucial to the success of our special education students as well as our general education students. We will continue to work very hard to find ways to deliver quality instruction.
What advice would you give new teachers or recent graduates about working in a classroom?My best advice to my student teachers and young teachers: “It's not about you, it's all about the children.”Spotlight on Thomas KeglerThomas Kegler, a native New Yorker who grew up in West Seneca, has been an art teacher at the East Aurora High School for the past 12 years. He worked for his degrees in Graphic Design and Art Education at State University College at Buffalo, and teaches a variety of subjects from “Studio in World Art” (International Studies), drawing and painting, to animation and videography. Most of his classes contain a mix of students from grades nine through twelve. Many of his students eagerly help out with art related community events as part of their community service requirement for graduation. From mural creation and videography documentation, to volunteer work, his students have taken an active part in the East Aurora community for many years. He models the importance of “giving back” by helping students with many projects, and by donating his paintings to fundraising events for charitable organizations.
You just completed a one-person show at Meibohm Fine Arts here in East Aurora.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to have a second solo show at Meibohm Fine Arts this past October. The body of work was primarily landscapes, with some still life and portrait accents. All the paintings were oil on linen. Grace, Nancy, Paula, and Mark at the gallery always do a wonderful job framing and displaying the art, thus the show was a success.
Are there stories behind your pieces of art?
Most of my art is inspired by everyday encounters. A potential theme for a landscape or still life often comes in the form of an interesting shape or color relationship that presents itself. I try to capture beauty in the common or overlooked, in everyday locations and objects.
Do you have a piece, or body of work you've done, that you could never part with?
I have never had an issue parting with my art. It is always a hope that my work will resonate with a person and find a place to reside. I am currently finishing up a series of portraits of my siblings that I have a personal connection to though, and will not part with.
Is art a gift, or a skill?
Art starts with interest and is cultivated by training and hard work. The aspect of skill is obtained through education and practice. Talent is often a seed that is nurtured. It is my belief that an interest and love of something trumps natural ability. Often, the harder you have to work for something, the more you appreciate it when you do succeed.
Why is art important to any child's education?
Studies regarding the development of the right side of the brain via arts education have proven to significantly improve academic scoring and social skills. In this time of fiscal crisis, it is imperative to retain and uphold education in music, technology, and the visual arts. The cultivation of the arts is integral to a healthy society.
What is your goal for your students?
My goal is to expose them to as much art history, technical processes, conceptual development, and analysis as possible in a relatively short span. Ultimately, I want my students to develop an awareness, vocabulary and appreciation for the many forms of visual arts.
What kinds of technology do you use in your teaching?
The art department exposes our students to as many art making “tools” as possible from basic pencil rendering, to highly technical video editing and animation and everything in between. We are fortunate to have a state-of-the-art MacIntosh computer lab outfitted with the latest CS5 Adobe Creative Master Suite Software (generously funded by a grant from the East Aurora Educational Foundation). Our art majors are therefore walking out of high school with highly developed portfolios ready for college applications. Our students are able to utilize the same equipment and technology used by colleges and the professional world.
How do you promote student interest in your classes?
Interest in art classes at East Aurora's high school is self-generating via word of mouth. We have a talented group of very hard working art educators here, and many of our classes have waiting lists.