Dr. Karen Keifer Boyd
A ED 101S: Introduction to Art Education
13 April 2006
One might say that my teaching observations were a blast from the past. I
decided to return to my hometown, Manheim, PA and shadow my high school sculpture
teacher, Cory Wanamaker. This was also the same teacher that I interviewed for my
professional development research. One may ask, why spend so much time on one
educator? The truth is that I loved his class and he was as much a mentor as a friend to
me throughout my education. I wanted to conduct an in depth study on not only my
Cory’s teaching methods but on the school as well; this is why I selected role one.
Manheim Central High School is located in a rather small rural borough. The
building is only one floor. Each class contains about one hundred and fifty students.
There are two permanent art rooms. One is designated for sculpture and three-
dimensional art making. It has a metal shop and firing area. The other is primarily used
for drawing and painting and other two-dimensional work. However, many different
rooms around the school, such as technology classrooms and even the band room have
had to be converted into drawing and painting oriented settings because of the recent
rapid growth of the art department. This is somewhat frustrating the art teachers because
they have to keep supplies on a cart and move them from room to room. But on the hand,
it is also encouraging to know that the program has taken off so much.
I spent most of my time in the sculpture room with Cory. The supplies were
organized in the room depending on what medium they associated with. The room is
rather large and divided into four main sections. There is one main working area that
contains the desks and is surrounding by storage cabinets that students are allowed to use
to store their projects. The other smaller rooms branch off of this main student
workroom. The first room is a small ceramics room that holds the large containers of red,
white, and beige clay as well as all of the clay building tools. It even has enough room to
hold six pottery wheels. The second room is a small coffee room. Students are allowed
to bring in coffee or food to share and store it in this small social. This room is also now
used for fashion design. All of the sewing materials are stored here. Another room is the
metal shop and kiln firing area. This room contains all of the metal working materials
such as welders and plasma cutters and the kilns used for firing ceramics projects.
Essentially, students conduct in metal work in the metals room and clay projects
in the ceramics room. However, there is some other materials used that doing really have
a specific place such as wax building, wire works, and plaster cast projects. There are
shelves located around the workroom that allow the storage of these materials.
The first class that I observed was a very advanced ceramics class from 7:45 to
9:15. This class was made up of seven seniors in levels of ceramics two through five. I
found it interested that all of the students in that class were pursuing their studies in art
unto college. Many of them were glazing projects that had just been through their first
firing. In these advanced classes, Cory Wanamaker lets the students experiment with
what it is that they would like to do with their art. Due to the fact that this class was all
seniors and this was their last project for the year, he pretty much let them fly free with
ideas and concepts. I moved throughout the room and observed the projects and asked
the students questions. Two students were glazing pots that they had thrown on the
wheel. Another student was glazing bowls that she had hand built. Another project
being worked on was that of a clay portrait bust. As one can observe, all of the students
were pretty much work on their final individual projects for the coarse so not much
teacher interaction was needed. However, since the students were glazing their projects,
many were approaching Cory and asking him what glaze to use and what each glaze
would look like. To each of them that art is not only about the final product but that it is
also about process and experimentation. He told each of them to test the glaze on small
clay slabs before choosing one to use. All of the students cleaned up individually without
one word from Cory.
All the students had already sent out their portfolios and were simply having fun
with this last piece. It showed that they all had a strong relationship with Cory as a
mentor and a friend, due to the fact that he’s taught many of them since ninth grade and
has helped them choose their colleges as well as organized portfolios.
For the most part all of the students really got along and bonded through the fact
that they were all pursuing art as careers for the future. The only problem that Cory
mentioned and that I noticed was that of the relationships of the girls in the class. Two of
the girls are very religious and are interested in missionary work and church activities.
Some of the other girls have the reputation to be somewhat of “party girls”. The class is
small and sometimes conflict occurs from working in such a small, intimate class. Cory
feels though that both groups of girls have bonded more throughout the semester.
The next two classes that I observed were an advanced sculpture two through five
level courses. The first was from 9:20 to 10:45 and the next was over lunch from 10:50
to 12:20. The first class contained about fifteen students while the second had twenty-
one students, ranging from grades ten through twelve. Because of the increase in the
amount of students, ages, and abilities, this class was a great deal more disorganized. It
seemed that there were students working everywhere possible in the room. The variety
of projects was amazing. I would have called the room a total chaos; however, each and
every student was sitting at their seat working. It was very impressive how everyone can
in and went to their “places” and began working immediately after Cory took role.
Hearing him take role was perhaps the highlight of my day. One would never think that
such a simple thing as taking role could be so intriguing and funny, but that’s what
Cory’s flamboyant personality makes it. Not once did he call out someone’s actual
name. He had a nickname for every student. This just further proves the personal level
that he strives to get on with his students.
The projects being worked on in these sculpture classes were similar to that of the
ceramics class because of the freedom that the students had. After have themes in earlier
projects such as Tompe L’oiel and social commentary, they were allowed to choose their
own topics for their final projects. As stated before, the variety of materials and projects
was very impression. Two students were working with fashion design. One was making
a dress created of band-aids and the other was creating one and using playing cards. A
student working in the metal room was constructing a model of a heart completely out of
metal sheets and pipes. Another student petitioned that she be allowed to do a mixed-
media painting for her final project and was painting on a canvas in the middle of the
room, while two other students were covering wired forms and creating wax faces at the
back sink. As one can see, the variety of materials used in this created very unique
individual projects. Some supplies seen out on the desks include: glazes, brushes, wax
blocks, wire cutters, chisels, mallets, plaster cast, and so much more.
Because of all of the supplies and materials used during in the sculpture classes.
More clean-up time than usual is needed. During the last twenty to fifteen minutes, Cory
announced clean-up time was to start. The problem was that many of the students were
too engaged in their projects and were not ready to stop. Cory said that this is the most
difficult thing about these classes. He always needs to push them to try to keep the
sometimes over whelming variety of projects and materials organized.
All of the classes that I observed were participating in work days. It was amazing
to me how Cory never had to once tell the to get to work. Everyone came in, got their
materials and projects, and simply began working. The amount of respect and understand
between Cory and the students caught my attention. During all of the classes, Cory
circulated the room and gave students individual attention. Students also came up to him
for questions about their projects. The teaching strategy that Cory mostly uses is
definitely discussion. He strives to get the students involved by group brainstorming and
mind-mapping on the board. He is a firm believer in critiques and urging students to
speak about their artwork and the meaning behind it to the class.
The classes and the environment as a whole were very relaxing. The students
brought in music, food, and coffee to share. This creates a community between the
students. It helps with better discussions and critiques. I feel that his best form of
motivation is his personality. He’s so funny and always cracking jokes. Students give
him the jokes right back. Cory Wanamaker is such an inviting, fun character that inspires
and encourages students to do their best.