Walk into Allyson Hileman’s classroom and you can’t help but notice that being a teacher isn’t just what she does, it is her passion in life. The Parkview Middle School teacher enters her classroom at 7 a.m. daily with a contagious excitement for the sixth and seventh graders in her art classes.
A Pennsylvania native, Hileman joined the Ankeny School District two years ago after receiving a master’s degree from Drake University. She was education director at a museum in Ames prior to coming to Ankeny, but quickly realized she “craved having (her) own classroom.” “I am a teacher,” Hileman says. “That is where my heart is.”
Although Hileman teaches her students how to paint, draw and sculpt, it is obvious she teaches them about more than art. The students in her classroom learn that failure is OK and success comes through hard work.
“I tell them every day ‘Da Vinci and Van Gogh didn’t start out being great.,” she says. “They had to work for it Just like we are going to work for it.’”
Students learn that when creating, like in life, you aren’t always successful at first. Hileman is authentic with her students and lets them see that she, too, messes up while drawing and has to start over.
“I can mess up, and it is OK, and we are just going to go again and see what happens,” she says. “I think that is a really good life lesson for them to learn as well. Yeah, not everything is going to be perfect the first time out, but you just keep going and you keep doing.”
Hileman’s students spend a lot of time learning how to draw, and eventually many discover they enjoy it. It isn’t unusual to have students walk in to art class and tell her they can’t draw, or that they only are able to draw stick figures. Hileman uses this as an opportunity to encourage her students.
“No, you can do more,” she says. “My job as a teacher is to be that encouraging voice to my kids. To say, ‘No, you can do this. I just want to see you try.’ ”
Hileman has each group of students for nine weeks each year. During that time they learn a great deal about the principals of art, about life, and enjoying the process of creating. It is obvious to those around her that Hileman is creating a life she loves.
“This is where I am happy,” she says. “It’s in my classroom with my kids.”