Husband and wife take team approach to art and design

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sheldonsAfter years of teaching in the Burlington public school system, Susan and Mark Sheldon take a team approach to the art department at Catholic Central High School, Burlington. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)New Catholic Central students taking art class might be initially confused that classes are taught by Mrs. Sheldon in the morning, and Mr. Sheldon in the afternoon. But, it doesn’t take long to realize that the husband and wife team work seamlessly to bring the art department to new and exciting levels.
Mark Sheldon remembers meeting his future wife, Susan, at a design class at Illinois State University in 1966 and jokes about how she convinced him to become an art teacher. After graduation, the couple began teaching art and design in the public school system for about 20 years until Mark left to become principal of the Burlington Middle School for the next 12 years.
“Susan kept teaching art and design at the Burlington High School while I served as administrator at the middle school,” Mark explained. “When I retired I was fortunate enough to become employed at CC when an art position became open. I have had a great time teaching here, and after a time, became the part-time dean of students, too.”
Through Mark’s many stories to Susan about the quality of education, staff and students, she was eager to join the CC art staff after retiring from the public high school last June. Since the fall semester, Susan teaches art and design in the mornings, while Mark serves his role as dean. In the afternoon, Mark resumes his position as art and design teacher.
The couple, both 64, brings experience and talent to the CCHS art department. Susan has twice received Teacher of the Year Awards, and as a team at Burlington High School, they were part of the department that received the prestigious Schwalbach Award, Art Department of the Year for the state of Wisconsin. In addition, Mark received the Administrator of the Year Award when he served as principal.
“Susan has much teaching experience in K-12, and in recent years has become quite skilled in media arts,” said Mark. “She teaches the media courses such as digital photography, video-art and yearbook. But she is a versatile educator and also teaches drawing and painting.”
Both enjoy teaching and seeing the success of their students. Between Susan and Mark, they hold several degrees and certificates, and have participated in numerous workshops and conferences over the years, gaining knowledge of the best practices in teaching.
“We use a constructive approach, empowering the students to use creative and critical thinking skills as they develop their problem solving skills using the design process,” said Mark.
While both could earn more by returning to the public school system, both appreciate the small, family oriented school where education and faith are stressed.
“We love it here and cherish the close interactions with students and staff,” said Mark, adding, “This is a very special place. The most rewarding part of teaching in a Catholic school is relating to the Seven Key Themes of Catholic School teaching. This really has an impact on student motivation and behavior. Students are so very involved in every activity of the school, and because of this, they have so much more opportunity to practice leadership than in many schools. We enjoy seeing many of the students we have taught over the past 40 years who have become successful adults, several in the art and design area.”

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