“Just a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a former student, and she sent me a drawing that she did, and the email said, ‘I just wanted you to see the drawing that I did and let you know that I’m using all of the skills that you taught me,’ and that was really sweet,” CHS art teacher Laura Sher said.
Sher is retiring this year after working in the Clayton School District for a total of 13 years, five at the middle school level and eight at CHS. Before moving to St. Louis, Sher taught students of varying ages at several K-12 schools in Seattle, Washington.
“I actually liked all different ages for different reasons. One thing I loved about the really little kids is that they’re just so cute, and just small things like getting a new color out of the paint closet was exciting for them,” Sher said.
According to Sher, however, teaching at the lower levels could have its more interesting facets.
“One little boy in elementary school had just started crying. Like, hysterically crying. And I just pulled his little chair out from the table and made him turn around to see if something was wrong with him and he was crying so hard that he couldn’t speak. And I finally got him to calm down enough and I just held his shoulders and looked at him right in the eyes and said, ‘what is wrong?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘I’m hot!’ because it was really hot that afternoon in my classroom. Poor little guy had a turtleneck and a sweater on!” Sher said.
Although this particular instance stuck with Sher for obvious reasons, it is other, more subtle moments that make the teaching experience so impactful to her. In these moments, Sher said, her hard work as an instructor is validated.
“In general, [the best part of teaching is] to see students really struggle with something, and then have the ah-ha moment when they’ve finished it and it’s just absolutely beautiful, and they’re surprised at how good their work is. That to me is so rewarding,” Sher said.
Sher, who is both a teacher and an artist (specifically a painter) also enjoys the fact that through her classes, she is able to find students who share her love of artwork. This gives her an outlet to discuss her interests in-depth and to encourage students to discover their own enthusiasm for the art world.
“I guess the thing that I most enjoy about it is sharing my passion for art with students because I’m an artist, I’m a painter. And it’s so much a part of my life and who I am that when I get a chance to share that with kids that appreciate it, it’s very very satisfying for me,” Sher explained.
After teaching for over 13 years, Sher hopes that she has been able to leave a positive impact on her students.
“Well, I mean, I hope that my students would describe me as being a good art teacher. I would hope that they learn a lot from me and I hope that they think that the atmosphere in the classroom is one that is conducive to being creative,” Sher said.
Although her career in full-time teaching may be ending, Sher plans to begin teaching part-time and aspires to become even more focused on her art in the future.
“Yeah, I’m going to have a studio and try to show my work again. I hope I’ll be able to do gallery shows. And the goal will be to sell my work,” Sher said.
First and foremost, Sher will be moving back to Seattle where she can have her own studio to paint. After that, she hopes to continue doing what she loves and sharing her passion for art with the world.