Inspiring through art


"What brings me the most joy [about teaching art] is that the art room... is a creative place where you can go any direction you want". -Christian Miller, art teacher at Auburn Riverside. PHOTO BY: MYRIAH DITTMAR

Myriah Dittmar and Alexus Jacobs

There are a plethora of classes for students at Auburn Riverside to choose from, especially those looking to broaden their artistic horizons outside of the core classes needed for graduation, all of which are instructed by staff who are committed to and passionate about what they do.

Take Theatre teacher, Katy Nuttman, for example. While she teaches Language Arts classes most of the day, she is known for producing the plays and musicals that Riverside puts on throughout the school year.

“I started performing in theatre in my freshman year of high school, which would have been 2002. I started improvising and officially performing in front of people in 2006. I had taken a few classes or workshops when I was in high school for improv, but I really started studying [theater] in 2006”, Nuttman said.

Nuttman is involved with Jet City Improv and the Seattle Children’s Theater outside of school. However, she has her reasons for also having a career in teaching as well.

“Both of my parents were teachers, so I kind of didn’t have an option”, Nuttman said. “But also, I really like the security of teaching in regards to arts, production as well. I have a steady paycheck each month, I have benefits. Those are definitely good things to have that many artists don’t have the opportunity to [have]. I feel it’s important for me to not just share my art with audience members, but to teach other people how to express themselves and share their art, too”.

Many of the other teachers have a similar motive for diving into a teaching career.

Christian Miller, the Advanced Art teacher, has experience teaching many different subjects, other than art.

“I’m always a teacher first. I’ve taught for nine years; I’ve taught every subject. At Riverside, I’ve done art, but I’ve also taught language, math, history. I just like building relationships with kids, helping them out. It doesn’t matter the subject”, Miller said. “[Art is] an escape from everything, it’s how you can get in the zone, it’s your creative outlet. I love doing it. I draw at home all the time and it’s fun to be able to share the things I have learned and techniques with students. I always have students each year that are much better artists than me”.

However, with being also the basketball coach along with various other important roles, there’s the challenge of balancing everything going on.

“Well, I don’t attempt to [balance everything] I do. It’s hard because I coach, I try to do extra activities with art and teaching is important and I have a family. You just have to find a balance. You can’t do everything… You learn to use your time wisely. I don’t play video games”, Miller said.

Riverside has the privilege of having not one, but two photography and visual communications teachers. Gina and Tyler Sandland, mother and son, have figured out a way to work part time and run the viscom program and build a photography business on the side while having a family, although they aren’t sure they have managed to really balance their busy lives.

When asked how they do it, Mr. Sandland states that, “There is no rhyme or reason to how we balance it. It feels impossible every day, so every day you just do what you can to get through and get done what you need to get done. And you’re okay with never actually finishing what’s on your to do list… so you just do as much as you can… and then be okay with the fact that you did your best to get through the day”.

Both of the Sandland’s chose teaching for the simple, common reason of wanting to help students tap into their creative sides and contribute to the world in more of a way than the typical STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) route.

“I like working with kids and doing creative things, and kind of sparking that passion for creative things in life”, Mrs. Sandland adds after her son mentioned that he looked to teaching because he wanted to be a positive male role model in schools.

Balancing a life jam-packed filled with seven hours of active teaching, hours of rehearsal and practicing, tedious editing, and busy family lives can be hard for teachers, but those at Riverside have figured out how to balance and manage their lives in order to get the important things done, including inspiring and guiding the next generation towards a more colorful future.