By Avra Sullivan
Many people are afraid of art because they think they don’t have artistic talent or that art is difficult to understand. Queen Anne’s County High School art teacher Stephanie Zeiler is working to change that perception with her students. “Art can be very personal, and I try to encourage students to express their own personality through their work,” says Stephanie who is in her 16th year at QACHS and also serves as the Department Coordinator and County Lead Teacher for the Visual Arts.
Stephanie says that as far back as she can remember she’s enjoyed drawing and painting. A middle school teacher encouraged her to follow her passion, and she went on to receive her degree in Art Education, knowing she wanted to pass on the joy of this craft to others.
Over the years Stephanie says she has seen the art department at Queen Anne’s expand. In Maryland students are required to take one fine art credit; however, Queen Anne’s County has a county-wide initiative to have 70% of students take additional classes, and it’s working. While Stephanie can teach the techniques behind drawing, painting or ceramics, she encourages students to evaluate their own work. Using a conversation style teaching method and open-ended questions, she encourages and supports her students while “challenging and shaking up the their comfort zones.”
Stephanie has opened many new doors for students interested in visual arts. She currently teaches several classes in drawing and ceramics and enjoys integrating multi-media to explore textures and layers. Twice a year several students are selected to present their work at a reception held at the board of education building. The selected artists describe their work in front of teachers, administrators, the board and Superintendent Williams. The artwork then remains on display for six months.
Outside the school classroom, Stephanie is involved with the Queen Anne’s County Arts Council, and this past summer was a featured artist at their member’s best exhibit. During the exhibit she got to meet members of the community and to talk about her own artistic work, which often takes a back seat to her work in school. “A lot of what I do is related to school, and I do miss spending time on my own artistic work. I really have to learn to make time for both.” One way she hopes to accomplish this is with a small studio. Stephanie and a fellow artist are working on opening a space to be named “Painted Ladies” to teach as well as to provide local artists a venue in which to display their work.
Stephanie supports students in other ways not related to art. She is the junior advisor for the Interact Club, a service group for students, and is the assistant volleyball coach. Last year, Stephanie received the Character Counts Meritorious Award given by the QAC Character Counts Advisory Council, and in 2011 was a finalist for Teacher of the Year.