PROCESS, NOT PERFECTION
Long-time art teacher Beth Heisey reflects on nearly 40 years in education
If you had the chance to walk into the classroom of Worthington Christian art teacher Beth Heisey in the spring of 2021, you’d likely see several students working quietly, intently, independently on something of their own creation. You’d likely hear how excited she is to implement brand new rubrics for guiding and assessing her students as they create. She might enthusiastically explain how the rubrics are helping her students to think more deeply about their creative process and produce more thoughtful, purposeful original artwork. You’d hear how she’s taken such time and attention to keep her class innovative and student-centered. She might even show you the new artistic prompts she’s using to inspire students, and tell you about a lovely art-driven conversation she overheard between two friends in her class about the prompts. You would never guess that Heisey is just weeks away from retiring after 38 years in education, 29 of those at WC. She is finishing her teaching career in the exact same manner that she has operated throughout—dedicated to growing as a person and as a professional.
Beth Heisey’s journey at WC began with a simple “thank you.” She’d spent nine years teaching art in local public schools and took a “baby gap” to be home with her two children in their youngest years. She began to substitute teach again as her children grew, and she still remembers one particular day of working as a substitute at WC. After an ordinary class, as students were filing out of the room, one young man stopped and said “thank you” to Heisey. She was struck and impressed by this thoughtful gesture, and so began her interest in teaching full-time at WC. In 1992, Heisey was hired on to WC’s visual arts department. Since then, she has witnessed and experienced many changes—changes in herself, in WC, and in her craft.
As Heisey reflects on her earliest years at WC, she explains, “I used to think that I should recruit really talented kids into the art department.” Just as the world of art has transformed over the last few decades, so too has Heisey’s perspective on who ought to engage with art. “Life is a lot more fun when you work with the people God gives you. Now, I want to work with everyone.” This mindset shift is reflected in the way Heisey now structures her classes. Her curriculum focuses largely on developing each student’s God-given creativity and the skills that are valuable in the 21st century. She weaves these skills and attitudes—things like collaboration, critical thinking and communication–into her work and uses art as the vehicle to spur students toward them. For her, the greatest reward comes in seeing students “move on their own” in developing as thoughtful young creators.
In the early 2000s, Heisey decided to continue refining her craft through completing the process of National Board Certification. This process takes anywhere from one to three years, and requires that teachers analyze their teaching and their students’ needs, submit videos of their teaching, and develop and submit a body of work that demonstrates their mastery. The fruit of her labor came in 2003 as she successfully earned this advanced teaching credential.
Around this same time, Heisey attended a summer class for teachers at the Chicago Institute of Art. She and fellow art teachers from around the country came together to learn about and discuss contemporary art. She went on to attend similar classes two more times and developed on-going relationships with those in attendance. Her connections through this encouraged Heisey to consider developing an Advanced Placement program at WC. After some time, consideration, and training, Heisey launched WC’s AP Art program in 2006, and it has been incredibly successful ever since. Well over 100 WC students have taken the course and 99% of them earned college credit for their work.
Heisey’s commitment to growth has, in many ways, been in keeping with WC as a whole. She describes witnessing the growth of the school in her nearly 30 years here as “unbelievable.” She speaks of the impact that Dr. Buzz Inboden’s leadership has had during his tenure as principal first of grades nine through 12 and now as principal of grades seven through twelve. “I’ve had the chance to learn from Dr. Buzz in the way he communicates and in the creativity which he has approached managing the school.” She has enjoyed being a part of the house system as it has developed over the last several years and has seen students grow into leaders through their involvement with it. “I see WC’s grades nine through 12 as not just a school but a leadership academy.”
The veteran teacher anticipates missing the familiar schedule of the school year and each school day. More than that, she will miss working out art problems and processes with her students. She knows, from a lifetime of teaching and being in the art world, the importance of each person’s journey. She sums it up well, “Art is not about perfection, it’s about a process.”
Reflect | Connect
If you have a story, memory, tribute, or a word of thanks to share about or with Mrs. Heisey, please take a moment to do so on this tribute page.
Stop by Founders Plaza on the Tom Anglea Upper School Campus on Sunday, May 2, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for a drop-in reception to greet and thank Mrs. Heisey (and Troy McIntosh and Dr. Buzz Inboden) for her years of service to the school.