A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Art & Culture, Condor Profiles

Art teacher turns passion into inspiration

Valerie Xanos has always had a passion for art. “It’s always been a part of my life even as a toddler. I was always on my own drawing and painting,” Xanos said.

Xanos studied art in college and and earned a fine arts bachelor’s degree that put her in the field to become a practicing artist. She turned to art education through a former teacher who gave her the push she didn’t know she needed.

“[My teacher] sort of tricked me into it,” Xanos said of her first experience teaching an art class.

“I really enjoyed it and it went really well. After I taught, my teacher came to me and said. ‘Do you know why I had you do this? Because you’re a teacher, you just didn’t know it and I wanted you to know.’”

“It was sort of an epiphany,” Xanos said. She realized how much she enjoyed teaching, and she enrolled in an art education program.

Xanos said being a high school art teacher can be challenging because the system doesn’t work for artists and the way they perform.

For Xanos, the easy part of her job is when she’s in the classroom, talking and thinking with students. She said, “[It’s] natural. That’s my real world, that’s my natural way of thinking and being, so that makes more sense to me.”

Xanos tries to inspire students by first getting them engaged in a curriculum that connects to what they care about and giving them a certain amount of freedom to create their pieces.
Another way Xanos keeps herself connected with the experience of her students is that she herself is also always learning and growing as an artist.

“I’ve recently changed my media from painting and drawing to more installation work that’s almost all digital and fiber and plastic constructions” she said. “I previously had no skill for those selections, and I had to develop several new skill sets.”

To Xanos, art is a necessity like food and sleep–without it, she wouldn’t be able to function properly. “It makes me feel a lot of different ways and emotions as an artist. Art is a necessity; it’s impossible to live without.” Xanos said.