Art is all about perspective.
Angles. Color. Shading. Depth. Even mood.
Lincoln Trail Art Teacher Susie Fones learned at a young age that education is all about perspective, too.
“When I was in third grade there was a little boy in my class who had difficulty learning things in a conventional way,” Fones said. “I was fascinated by how differently our brains work. I had a discussion with my third-grade teacher about this, and she made me the little boy’s personal tutor. Whenever he achieved something, it was so exciting for both of us.”
Fones began to think that a career in education might be right for her, but that thought was really solidified as a fifth-grade student.
“We had an assignment to do a presentation where we teach the class how to do something,” she said. “I had helped students one-on-one, but being in front of the whole class was a different matter. I wondered how I could teach to everybody at once.
“The day of the presentations, each student took a turn and we all gave positive feedback on what they had taught. After my presentation, no hands went up and there was a long silence — then the class started cheering! I was hooked on teaching after that, but I didn’t know what level or subject I would teach.”
But her parents were not only there with encouragement to continue the pursuit of art, but also to help her consider a career as an art teacher.
“My mother had a true love for education and a gift for teaching, though not as a professional,” she said. “She was the top in her class, but college was not in the picture for her. She went to work when I was 9 years old so her children, all three of us, could go to college if we chose to, and we all three did.”
While working on her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Illinois State University, Fones also worked as a Residence Hall Director and taught “Art for Elementary Teachers.”
After graduating and marrying, Fones followed her husband’s career for a while. She worked as the advertising manager of a newspaper in the LaSalle-Peru area, was the Director of the Galesburg Civic Art Center, and taught courses in drawing and art history at Carl Sandburg College in the late 1970s.
“After taking time off from the working world when our children were born, and two moves later, we ended up in Seymour. We thought we would only be here a few years, but that was about 31 years ago.”
Fones started substitute teaching and volunteering in the Mahomet-Seymour School district in 1989.
“I loved to get called to Lincoln Trail to substitute because I was really enjoying that age of student,” she said.
Fones continued to work as a teacher’s aide when her children were young. Then in 1997, she became the art teacher at Lincoln Trail.
Fones will retire from her post this week.
All these years later, teaching is still about sharing those highlights with pupils.
“There is something so special about being in their presence and sharing their victories,” she said.
Fones hopes that as students left her classroom, they gained a new perspective on the world.
“I hope they gain a new way of looking at their world and possibly a new way to learn,” she said. “Art is tied to the rest of the curriculum in so many ways. If they can apply some of the creativity, problem-solving, history, culture, etc. to the rest of their lives, that would be a blessing.”