Ms. Masemann is an art teacher at Marc Garneau.

Photo: Eric Zhao

Q: What do you do at Marc Garneau?

A: I teach art in all grades but this semester I’m teaching Grade 10, 11, and 12

Q: How long have you been working at Marc Garneau?

A: I’ve been here for seven years.

Q: How did you become an art teacher?

A: I used to be an artist before I became a teacher. I was involved in ceramics and made pottery for a living. Then, I realized that I actually enjoyed teaching better and went back to school to get my teaching degree. I taught History for a while as well as English before getting the job here, which is great.

Q: How did you get into art?

A: I’ve always been into art. From a young age, my favourite thing to do was to go to my room and make things. Other people would play games and hide-and-seek but I just liked to go and draw. I got into art seriously when I was in university and took evening pottery classes because I was stressed out by my essays and became obsessed with making pottery.

Q: What did you go to university for?

A: I went to university and majored in German and History. After I graduated, I could become a translator or go back to school for ceramics. I went to Sheraton College for ceramics and had my own studio for a number of years. I made my living selling my work and then I went back to university again to get my teaching degree.

Q: What do you like about MGCI?

A: The best thing about this school is how many students there are. I like this because it means we have a lot of students to draw from for the art program and can offer lots of different things such as material arts, photography, drawing, painting.

Q: What is the most important thing you hope students will take away from your course?

A: I want them to be open-minded and know it’s okay to be different. That’s the life lesson of learning and making art. I also hope they will take away problem-solving skills. I don’t expect people to become artists but the creative ways of thinking when they take art are transferable to every subject.

Q: How do you think teaching at MGCI changed you?

A: It has taught me a huge amount about this area of the city and the people who live here. It’s made me a lot more open-minded and flexible. The students here are really nice and I have fun every day. My outlook on life is pretty positive.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

A: The hardest part is juggling so many things. Being an art teacher means you have to keep track of the materials, make sure everything is organized, have everything you need, plan lessons, and mark assignments. The most frustrating thing is the cleaning and reminding students to clean but the rewards of teaching are so great that I’m willing to put up with that.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: I get to know students really well because I often teach them for three or four years whereas a lot of teachers might only meet students once or twice in their courses. We have an open studio at lunch so students are always dropping in and we can develop very strong relationships.

Q: What was the funniest thing in your teaching career?

A: The only thing that I can think of might not sound that funny but it was at the time. I was teaching a grade 10 class how to cut cardboard when I cut a huge gash in my thumb but I was so focused on teaching that I just wrapped it up in paper towels and masking tape. I taught for the rest of the lesson and only realized how bad it was after I went to the office.

Q: Who is your favourite artist?

A: That’s a really hard one. I would say my favourite artist is this German abstract artist named Paul Klee.

Q: What is your pet peeve?

A: My pet peeve is when students come into the art room and ask for supplies even though I’ve never met them and they don’t introduce themselves.

Q: What is something you wanted to do but never got the chance to?

A: Well, I wanted to be a competitive swimmer. There are also a lot of places I still want to go but I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to. I really want to go to Japan. I don’t have many regrets in my life though.

Q: What is your favourite material to use in the art room?

A: My favourite material is clay.

Q: What would you say to somebody who doesn’t think they’re ‘good’ at art?

A: I would say that there are lots of ways to be good at art. It’s not about drawing necessarily. There are lots of different tricks you can learn that can help you do the things you find hard. If you like it then you should just do it. In my opinion, I was quite a bad drawer even when I was making a living as an artist but through practice, I’ve just gotten so much better. If you hate it and you’re bad at it, don’t bother but if it’s fun then you should always pursue it.

Q: What is art?

A: Art is a visual form of expression that communicates something from the artist to the audience. But not all art is good. The judgement of that is subjective because some people can see something in the art and find it very moving. I would argue that fewer people do for certain pieces but there are very realistic pieces that some people love and I hate.

Q: What is good art?

A: Good art is subjective but I think it has to touch you somehow. However, there are some types of art such as abstract art that I love but it leaves some people very cold. I think good art should also involve some skill or a very good idea at the least. Sometimes, artists use assistance and they don’t actually make their own art but they have an amazing idea and they get people to help them execute it. It’s very different from doing a beautiful realistic portrait of somebody but both of those can touch people.

Q: What does art mean to you?

A: This is going to sound cheesy but art is my life. Art is the thing that brings meaning to me and changes the way I see the world, especially when I’m teaching and thinking of my students when I’m experiencing new things or looking at art shows or looking at a particular scene. Thinking of ways to communicate that to my students also brings meaning to my life.