St. Clair Shores art teacher honored

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 10, 2021

 Lakeview Public Schools teacher Ian Schulz won an Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan State Lottery.

Lakeview Public Schools teacher Ian Schulz won an Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan State Lottery.

Photo provided by Ian Schulz

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A Lakeview Public Schools teacher who works hard to inspire hundreds of students to creativity has been recognized for his efforts with an Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan State Lottery.

Ian Schulz is an elementary art teacher for Lakeview Public Schools who works with students in three different schools in a typical year. As more students have been welcomed into school buildings over the years, Schulz had to adapt his teaching to the “art on a cart” style. Prior to COVID-19, he taught seven 45-minute classes a day, teaching more than 950 students each week in the district’s elementary schools.

The colleague that nominated Schulz for the award, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has provided innovative and fun ideas for students even with the limitations of teaching without his own classroom.

“He has students work with clay, print-making and painting projects, to name a few. This is not a small task to set up and take down every 45 minutes for the allotted art time that he sees the students each week,” the colleague wrote. “Since our school has moved to hybrid learning this year, Mr. Schulz continues to make sure all students are able to complete amazing work, either at home or with him in class.”

On Lakeview Public Schools’ hybrid schedule, Schulz sees students at one school for an entire semester and then switches schools. Students attend on either Monday and Tuesday or on Thursday and Friday, alternating Wednesdays, so he’s actually been able to see his students 2-3 times per week instead of for just one 45-minute session.

“It’s been a lot easier to get that connection made this year,” he said. “We’ve been able to get through projects faster.”

On the other hand, he said, there are students he hasn’t seen since March 2020, so he’s looking forward to the change in semester to catch up with them.

No matter how he is able to teach his students, Schulz has always told them that, “I’m going to give them 110% of my effort and I expect the same of them.”

As more classes were added to his schedule, he promised students that they wouldn’t miss out on working with clay or printing or painting.

“All you guys have to do is be here, ready to go, when I roll in,” he has said. “They haven’t lost out on any of the projects.”

This is Schulz’s 24th year teaching in Lakeview Public Schools. He said it’s important to him that students have fun in his class but also realize the wide breadth of careers and opportunities that can be opened up with art.

“Not everybody is good at math. Not everybody is the strongest reader. Without art, the movie industry, music, TV shows, magazines (don’t exist),” he said. “Taylor Swift is an artist. It’s a different type of art than I teach. Actors are also artists.”

He said he teaches students about careers related to art, from graphic designers to computer animators or video game designers. He even reminds his students that his job is a career related to art, and he gets to play with paint and clay all day long.

“Art is more than just drawing and painting. It can turn into something else,” he said.

Schulz said he feels it’s important for students to be able to try new things “and not be worried.”

Schulz was surprised when he was notified he won the award.

“I thought it was a scam because I got an email from the Michigan State Lottery that said, ‘You have won an award.’ I said, ‘sure ... ,’” he said.

But after checking with a teacher he remembered had been honored in the same way before, it began to dawn on him that he had actually won $1,500, plus another $500 for his school.

“On a normal year, I only get about $400 per school to buy supplies anyway. You buy clay and half your budget is gone,” he said. “For me, that was almost as good as the personal check. I can buy something without spending my own money!”

What to use the winnings on for himself is harder to figure out, he said. He does a lot of arts and crafts at home so he might use it to buy new tools. On the other hand, his son is turning 16, so it might go toward a car.

The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state throughout the academic year. Teachers are evaluated for the award based on how their work helps students advance to higher levels of academic achievement, how they go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed, that their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations academically or professionally, that they demonstrate clear leadership skills, and that their work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or district.

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