A love of art and a natural inclination to help others drew Waukee High School’s Paula Tomlinson to a career in teaching.
Tomlinson, who teaches art and photography, says she enjoyed art as a child. Her interest in it continued through high school, where she also found that she liked assisting other students. So she decided to marry the two interests.
“I am starting my 26th year of teaching, and I still love it,” says Tomlinson, who is going into her 15th year at Waukee High.
She teaches mainly the upper grades, in a range of areas. They include photography, painting, textiles, 2D mixed media and advanced workshop, helping juniors and seniors interested in art as a career to assemble their portfolios.
“I like having the variety of classes to teach,” she says.
Some individuals may be more “wired” for art, but Tomlinson believes everyone can create.
“Everyone can succeed in my class,” she says.
While it may sometimes look like “controlled chaos,” there is structure and respect, as well as expectations and assessments just as in any other class.
The best part of her job is working with the students. She has seen them change during her tenure as a teacher, particularly because of technology.
“Technology has changed everything, the way we communicate with students and parents, and more importantly how we teach,” Tomlinson says. “Academically, students know more today than they did when I first started teaching. They can access and research any topic at lightning speed.”
But there are also a few things that haven’t changed, including students’ need to feel accepted and a thirst for guidance and knowledge. Also, being able to work with others and building a healthy self esteem are still important.
“In art classes we do all of these, and in addition, we teach independent thinking and critical problem solving, which are two of the top traits employers are seeking in the workplace,” Tomlinson says.
She hopes her students leave her class with the drive to keep improving and pushing themselves.
“(I want them to have) just the confidence to try something new and work hard,” Tomlinson says. “Because if you’re going to accomplish something, it will not be an easy feat.”