Mountain Vista Middle School teacher teaches from experienceJune 27, 2011
By Zach Richter
Susan Vassallo has a very busy schedule, she teaches Arizona Quilters Guild sanctioned classes around the state, develops new work in her studio and still manages to find time to work on sketches for the Arizona Centennial Quilt to be unveiled during the state’s centennial next year.
Luckily for the Coolidge Unified School District (CUSD), she is also the Fine Arts teacher at Mountain Vista Middle School. With a degree in Fine Arts Education and plenty of real world experience as a nationally recognized quilter, Vassallo provides students with well-rounded exposure to the arts.
Vassallo took time out of her busy schedule to speak with Today Publications about how she ended up teaching at Mountain Vista and the skills she feels students need to learn. “I applied for a counselor position and they saw my art background and offered me the art position,” she remember, “I said sure and I’m so glad I did, oh my gosh.”
She went on to say that, other teachers have noticed a positive difference in her classroom due to her work experience, noting she shares with the students what it takes to be an artist and what it takes to work for oneself. “I believe in exposing them to a wide variety of experiences so they can continue studying what they find interesting,” she said.
Prior to working for CUSD, Vassallo honed her teaching skills in the Arizona Quilters Guild Traveling Teacher Program, where she taught classes for all skill levels across the state. Since she began her work with Mountain Vista in 2008, she hasn’t been traveling for the Guild, though she still teaches small private and larger group classes on occasion.
Before working for the Guild she spent time as a professional artist and her work can be seen in installations around Arizona and throughout New England. Her experience seems to have transferred to her students, nine of which were finalists in the 2011 Pinal County Attorney’s Office Anti-Drug Poster Contest.
Vassallo’s Mountain Vista classes expose students to art’s history and formal elements while providing students with a context for real world application. “My philosophy is to expose the kids to as wide of a variety of art experiences as possible,” she said before giving an example, “For instance, the seventh grade is studying volcanoes, so we are making some for them to blow up.”
What’s more, she obtains many of her materials from Treasures 4 Teachers a nonprofit organization that specializes in recycled items. “Treasures 4 Teachers makes for a much more creative process, “Vassallo said with a laugh, “It also helps me teach about recycling.
In addition to teach at Mountain Vista, Vassallo says she currently is working in her studio to keep her professional edge with a goal of landing work on the national level and of course, working on her initial sketches for the Arizona Centennial Quilt.
For more information on what she is up to, including potential Centennial Quilt sketches, work from her students or to schedule a class, check out www.susanvassallo.com. For more on Vassallo’s role at Mountain Vista visit MountainVista.CoolidgeSchools.Org.