Stegman is the guru, and says College in the High School has added 'rigor' to 'relevance' and 'relationship'
"The "Three R's" of education used to be Readin', Ritin' and Rithmatic. Today, they are Rigor, Relevance and Relationship.
No matter how frigid the temperature is outside, in the northeast corridor of CHS, you are likely to get engaged in a
hot conversation about "Right Brain Learning." If so, you'll be talking about thinking and creativity and those places where non-verbal, and creative ideas come from. You'll wind up talking about College in the High School (CIHS,) and you'll be talking to Gary Stegman, Crookston's long standing art teacher and artist in permanent residence, not to mention right brain guru. Most likely, you'll be speaking in metaphor, because that's how Stegman approaches these or any art related topics. And, you'll be talking to the man who has created a permanent home for non-traditional learners and creative thinkers.
"I had always worked at the second two (Relevance and Relationship), but College in the High School brought Rigor to my program," Stegman said. "I make every attempt to talk to every student in every class every day."
In 2001, Stegman was working half time as a high school art teacher and half time as a district curriculum, staff development and Graduation Rule officer. At that time, for a variety of reasons, many of which dealt with district finances, discussion began about offering a College in the High School class in Art.
Stegman decided to pursue the idea for three reasons: first, because it might help to curtail the outflow of dollars from the district because of PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option,); second, because, in Stegman's words,
teachers will do almost anything to make school better for their students, and; third, because of the encouragement of Larry Barton, long-time Crookston English teacher who was offering a CIHS English class at the time.
What Stegman didn't count on was the beneficial effect CIHS would have on the entire art program.
Stegman said CIHS has indeed raised the level of rigor in the art program. "You have heard it said 'hard work is it's own reward.' For these kids, that statement becomes true," he said. "They take a pride in what they have learned, the effort it took to get there, the results of the work they create, and that the program has become theirs. ...The kids protect the integrity of the art program because they have become stakeholders in it."
It's surprising to learn that competition has become important to the art kids, too, and Stegman adds that this competition, which includes the possibility of earning a varsity letter, in combination with CIHS has made the art program much more inclusive.
"Kids always worked on their art in the classroom, but now, they travel with their art and compete against other schools," Stegman said. "Competition always helps kids to see where they need to improve, and improve they have."
In 2006, the MSHSL (Minnesota State High School League) held its first state level art exhibition. Kids have to win their way to that event, and in the last six years, CHS has sent four students to that art show. In 2011, CHS had a student, Shannon Kaiser, win the equivalent of the Section 8A Artist of the Year. In addition to Kaiser, several students have made an impact on the art world in our area recently, including Taylor Smith, Josh Mercil, Michelle Stahlecker,
Hayley Solheim, Lauren Klinge, Katelyn Stegman, Brady Larson, Heather Shol, Nikki Thordarson, Shaina Davis, Chris Legasse, and Tiffany Trudeau, to name a few.
"These individual results speak volumes about the effort kids have put into their work," Stegman said.
A recent right brain conversation in the north corridors of CHS included the idea that education should teach kids how to think, not what to think. That is exactly what is happening in CIHS art every day and it's going to continue and broaden its scope with the inclusion of a Humanities course to be taught by Stegman beginning next year. The course will supplement the current art curriculum of Studio Arts, Drawing 1 and 2, Painting 1 and 2, Graphic Arts and Ceramics 1 and 2. The second level of each offering are CIHS courses.
In addition, there is Art Seminar, which is where the competitive art is generated. Stegman describes the Humanities course as an outlet for students "who don't want to touch a
paint brush or a piece of clay."
So, largely because of the career-long efforts of right brain
specialist, Stegman, the outlook is bright for non-traditional,
hands-on learning at Crookston High School. If you need further proof, grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a conversation with the guru himself, but allow plenty of time. Stegman is enthusiastic about right brain learning, and his art program, and he has a lot to say about it. In your conversation with this veteran teacher, you may just find that this is the Right Fit for You.