There was no question, growing up I knew I wanted to be an artist. My parents taught me that I could be anything. They were huge supporters of me then and still are today. I am very lucky. I was blessed a second time with a memorable art teacher. Ms. Hoffman at MacArthur Elementary School exposed me to all types of creative expression…AND she let us bring in records, yes real records, to play in class. Of course my Sean Cassidy LP hit the turntable. It was the 70’s. She was quite influential in those early years.
And then there is Mrs. Surtz, my high school instructor. She had a reputation of being a perfectionist. A teacher that didn’t just teach. She challenged. Looking at it through students’ eyes, she was tough. Looking at it now, she was still tough but she also inspired. She knew your strengths. She knew how to push you on to get the absolute best out of you. She challenged you to dig deep into that talent. And most importantly, she believed in you.
I was part of her inaugural advertising design class. This was pre-computer, all the artwork was done by hand. Marker renderings and hand typeset copy. Even though I was good with deadlines in English, math, and science, timing was not my strong point in art class. Mrs. Surtz gave us a project to find print advertisements and recreate them in marker. It is an unforgiving medium. I procrastinated. Rather than accept my excuses and self-proclaimed inability to complete the project - I was willing to accept a poor grade - she sat me down after school and insisted I finished the project. And she sat there and watched me do it. By far, it is the piece I was, and still am, most proud of. It received an honorable mention in a district wide art show, but the real prize was the confidence I received from pushing through the challenge. She believed in me and that is why she challenged me past my self made limitations.
I now, reluctantly, call her Cynthia. I also call her a friend. She will always be my former teacher but she is so much more. Without her belief in me, without her challenging me, and without her proving to me of what I was truly capable, I would not be where I am artistically. I will always remember what she did for me that day and I feel that I owe her my best. The “likes” on my posts are fabulous but I get a bubble of pride when I see her name. I hope I’m still making her proud.
Thank you, Mrs. Surtz, Cynthia, for making me stay after school. It was the best gift you could have given me.
P.S. If you have a teacher that made a difference in your life, tell them!