Art teacher brings home lessons from South Korean tour

Highland High School art teacher Ronda Szymanski recently returned form a 17-day study tour of South Korea. (By The Associated Press)

Highland High School art teacher Ronda Szymanski recently returned form a 17-day study tour of South Korea. (By The Associated Press)

HIGHLAND, Ind. (AP) — A Highland art teacher was one of 16 teachers from across the country to participate in a tour in July through the East Asian Studies Center at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Rhonda Szymanski is taking the lessons she learned in South Korea and developing curriculum for her students at Highland High School.

The East Asian Studies Center has been designated a Comprehensive National Resource Center for the Study of East Asia by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Established in 1979, the center links the expertise of Indiana University’s East Asian area specialists to the needs of business, education and government.

In addition to creating curriculum based on her travels, Szymanski said she also is required to reach out and inform the local community about the trip.

“I was fascinated by the National Museum of Korea,” she said. “We were there for three weeks visiting several museums and palaces, and learning about the people and culture.”

The six-story National Museum houses more than 140,000 national relics and artifacts. The museum is divided into two exhibition areas that display relics and artifacts through permanent and special exhibitions. The permanent exhibition consists of themed galleries including a prehistory and ancient history gallery, a medieval and early modern history gallery, a calligraphy and art gallery, a sculpture and crafts gallery and an Asian gallery and donations gallery.

Szymanski, who teaches five art classes, including ceramics, said she was not familiar with Joseon Buncheong Ware ceramics, and saw many examples of it at the museum. She has developed a lesson for her students where they are imitating the Korean buncheong pots, using different types of clay to create the artistic pottery.

“My students are experimenting with glaze, color and form. I’ve taken several classes in East Asian studies at IU, and I do a lot of East Asian art and culture with my students,” she said.

Szymanski said the art class meets state standards in art, which also calls for students to have an understanding of the people and culture and how that affected the art. Szymanski said the buncheong pottery dates back to the first 200 years of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).

Art, life and their careers

Senior Mariah Stout was making a teapot Nov. 2. “I’ve always been very interested in art since I was little. I also like to draw. I plan to become a nurse, but I also intend to take art classes when I’m in college,” she said.

Senior Keon Ball said the class allows him to put his imagination to work. “I like to draw. I’ve worked for a carpenter before, and I intend to become a general contractor,” he said.

Dailigh Romano, who was using a small silver device to flatten the clay to eliminate bubbles, said she finds the art class relaxing. “I also like to paint the pieces of pottery when I’m done,” she said.

Szymanski said she’ll make smaller samples for the students so they can see how a piece is supposed to look before starting a project. She said the Korean pottery likely will take a week to finish.

Szymanski is one of two high school art teachers at the school. She said each class is a semester, and each teacher has about 250 students per year.

Her classroom, similar to a small pottery studio with desks, has kilns, a pug mill, or mixer, and a bucket to store clay.

Senior Kaitlyn Pecoski said she enjoys the art class. “It’s fun. You get to imagine something, then create it. I’ve never been good at art like some of the others, but I enjoy this class tremendously,” she said.