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McPhillips hopes to help students add perspectives through her art classes

This is National Arts in Education Week. To celebrate we are highlighting parts of the art program at Pius X High School.  

Molly McPhillips is an art teacher at Pius X High School teaching art fundamentals and graphic design this fall, and adding a ceramics and sculptures class in the spring. She is currently studying for her master's degree.  

How did you become an art teacher?  

"When I was in college, I was studying studio art and marketing and management (at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, but my mom kept telling me to get a teaching degree. I kept saying, 'No mom, I want to be an artist.'"  

"I got my degree, and I had a couple of odd jobs. Then ended up back in Kearney. I was working for The Buckle corporate office as a creative content stylist. With my job, I was doing a lot of creative things, such as setting up photo shoots, keeping track of the latest trends and styles, and coordinating social media. A coworker saw me working with kids on a behind the scenes art project, and said, 'You know what? You would be a great teacher.'"  

What was your high school experience like? (McPhillips attended Humphrey St. Francis High School)  

"In high school I took every art class available. Most of the classes were guided, but once you got into the upper studio classes, you just had a to create 12 pieces of art work in a semester.  I took multiple upper level studio classes, so I was just creating lots of art and I loved it."  

"Dean Korus was the art teacher, and he is still there. He would always encourage us to try things.  He was probably one of my favorite teachers."  

The challenges and opportunities of teaching art today  

In my high school, we had block scheduling (classes last approximately 90 minutes long, with fewer periods per day), so we could just sit down for hours and work on something. Here I only have 45-minute classes, so it takes a lot of effort to get students in the right mindset. That’s a challenge. But it’s also really cool when they get used to a routine in the classroom and can switch their mindset really easily."  

"There are some projects that we did (in her high school) that I am trying because I remember so many of them."  

What do you want students to take away from art class?  

"One thing that I hope my students take away from my class is a change in perspective. A lot of students coming into this have a preconceived notion of what art is. Some think they can only draw a stick person or they aren’t an artist. The main thing I want them to take away is that anyone can learn a skill. It’s just about practice and being open to learning that skill."  

"I will show them something I do, and I say 'Ok, we are going to do this,' and they don’t believe it, but we go through step by step and at the end we have a lot of beautiful artwork."  

"We also do art criticism, so they can critique others’ artwork and their own in an educated way.” 

"I see a lot of growth in all the students. My goal is to push every student past where they come in, push them past what they think their potential is."  

Pius X • 6000 A St. • Lincoln, NE 68510 • 402-488-0931 • Fax: 402-488-1061

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