Meet Jason Sanderson, Class of 1992
What Jason is Doing: Art teacher at Temperance (Mich.) Bedford High School
Jason Sanderson has taught high school art for more than 20 years. But what the Siena Heights graduate really teaches is passion.
“It’s just about passion, and that’s why I really feel like I need to be engaged with (my students) as much as possible,” he said. “It’s just so rewarding because the kids know that I’m passionate about what I’m doing. And if I’m passionate about what I’m doing, it’s going to transfer.”
That passion has transferred not only to his students, but to the entire Temperance Bedford High School district, where he began his full-time teaching career in 1994. In a time where public education is cutting programs like art and music, Bedford’s has actually expanded.
“You’ve got to make it viable,” Sanderson of art. “You’ve got to make it important and mean something. … It’s about choices. This is a kid’s baseball (scholarship). This is a kid’s 32 on his ACT. This is their chance. I’m all about choices, and I don’t ever want my kids to put their eggs in one basket.”
Serving as part guidance counselor, part career coach, he takes an active role with his students and their families in finding the “best fit” in a college or university.
“The kids who leave my program are just so much better prepared to make that next step,” Sanderson said. “And most important, they know that the next step is the right one for them.”
Sanderson doesn’t stop teaching once the school day ends. On most Wednesday afternoons for more than a decade, he drives a group of his students to a professional studio in downtown Toledo, Ohio, to participate in a life drawing class.
“Going down there makes me a better art teacher because I learn new ways of drawing,” Sanderson said of the after-school activity. “For the students, it sets them apart. It’s saying to a prospective school like Siena, ‘I’m serious. I’m doing these things on my own.’ ”
Students also get a chance to work with other professional artists, including Sanderson, at his Summit Street Studios in downtown Toledo. He said he often takes students to his studio to work on their drawing.
“What’s neat about it is I take kids down there and you can draw and paint at a much more intense and relaxed level,” Sanderson said. “They can do a drawing of a person sitting in a chair uninterrupted. I give them their own studio experience. It gives them a chance to say, ‘Yeah, I work in a studio.’ It’s a shared experience.”
He said his Siena Heights education has influenced – and continues to inspire – his teaching career.
“One of the things that was so cool about my experience (at Siena), was it seemed like a lot of things are interconnected,” said Sanderson, referring to Siena’s liberal arts core. “I’d be taking an English class and an education course and something at Studio Angelico, and there would be an undercurrent, I could see a connectedness. That’s the advantage (at Siena).”
In fact, he brings prospective students up to SHU’s Promising Artists Day every chance he gets, and credits Siena’s mission as one of his “pillars.”
“The things we’re doing in my class (are) an inspiration from more of what I did at Siena,” he said. “I’m taking things at the level I was doing them in college and bringing them to the high school. … I know my purpose. I know I’m competent at what I’m doing and how I impart that to kids.
“The classroom is a fountain of youth. There’s never a dull moment. I’m all in.”