Heritage Middle School art teacher Brett Elsy stands next to the school’s broken kiln. He’s currently traveling to Chino Valley High School to use its kiln to bake and glaze students’ clay projects. (Jason Wheeler/Review)
Originally published Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 06:01a.m.
Spend five minutes with Heritage Middle School art teacher Brett Elsy and two things become apparent: he loves his students, and he loves art.
Elsy said he’s been a teacher for more than 30 years and though he’s done a lot in his teaching career, he’s “lucky to finish his career as an art teacher,” he said. “At Heritage Middle School, the kids love coming to art class.”
“It’s fun, and middle school kids need it because there’s no fun out there. It’s just hard work,” Elsy said. “They do a lot of work. It’s necessary but man, they got to have something here to do.”
For him, art is everything and everywhere, he said. It’s really cool when one of his students shows him something they found on Pinterest or pictures they took of the sunset from somewhere like their back porch, Elsy said. It’s all worth it to try and hit that creative spark for those students to capture moments, he said.
For some students, it might be a struggle all day in other classes, but they’re coming to school to go to art, Elsy said.
“I’m okay with that,” he said. “If this is what gets them here, we’re good.”
Some of his eighth graders are really good artists, and he works to prime the pump in hopes that they will continue taking art in high school, Elsy said. If they can’t take art, then they should take something, or they’ll go crazy, he said.
Heritage Middle School’s art room has a kiln, but it’s broken. Elsy said he’s taking the raw clay projects to the high school to fire them and then glaze them.
The plan is to wait it out until the end of school, Elsy said, and get it repaired over the summer. A new kiln would cost about $5,000, Elsy said.
Elsy is also part of the Reteach and Enrich program, which gives students the opportunity to master essential skills and knowledge before moving on. As a certified English teacher, Elsy said he leads five reading groups with high school-level books. His students loved Ayn Rand’s “Anthem,” comparing it to Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” he said.
Elsy said he’s also building sets for a production of Aladdin. “I love it,” he said. “I think I’m very lucky to be a teacher for one, and to be an art teacher, which is even better.”