Meet the New Art Teacher

Stephanie Fritz, the latest teacher in the Souhegan Arts department is happy to be here. Perhaps that’s an understatement. Fritz’s journey to Souhegan, much like herself, is unique and one of a kind. Her journey into education started 9,110 miles from Amherst. Her love of art and teaching began as a teenager in New Zealand. Stephanie joined me in-between classes and shared where she came from with me and what influences impacted her decision to be a teacher.
“There was a teacher his name was Phil Neary,” Fritz said, “ and he was my sophomore art teacher and there was something about the way he connected with his students but in my case with me and we really hit it off in terms of a student art teacher relationship and it was because of him that I wanted to become an art teacher.” Later on, Phil stopped teaching and became a full-time sculptor.
In college, she went to an art school and became a painter despite her challenges in painting throughout her last year of high school where her painting boards for her bursary exams ended up doing poorly, this was horrible as the year before she scored top in the school. However, her photography boards were in the top 2% of New Zealand.
Stephanie actually decided she wanted to work here after watching a documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed” saying she loved how Souhegan let students have control over their work and ideas. “Every day I come to this building and I’m like yes, I get to work here. I’ve wanted this job since 2016.” She said very enthusiastically.
“Everyone goes on and on and on about how terrible 2020 is and I’m just like wellll, I got my dream job-and I belted up to my blue belt. Covid has been interesting because for me I’m constantly looking for the silver linings so I’m never gonna sit there and be like this is awful because it’s just not, It’s given me the opportunity to really expand my ability to teach online, it’s required me to think outside the box which I enjoy doing in general but it’s required you a lot to think outside the box.”
After many years of working at different schools, she started working with something called the Exhibition of Learning (EOL). An exhibition of learning is exactly what it sounds like, it’s an exhibition of learning. When she first created this EOL it was inspired by most likely to succeed, which is what she saw here at Souhegan. In San Diego, there is a school (High Tech High) and they are the school talked about in most likely to succeed, they have it four times a year while Steph has done it 2 times a year, every year for the last 3 years. It’s a different, more realistic way of grading/assessing people.
For the EOL you create something and as an assessment, you present it to your parents and friend’s and share what you’ve created, it’s a more authentic way of seeing what you know because you have to talk about it so it gives students the opportunity to share their work (not only for the art world) it’s cool because it always teachers who would normally never work together to do so. You can do things like chem and pottery together and such, like very different topics that can connect in ways. “It’s a way of allowing students to be the advocate of their own learning.”
Her main creations in the art world are different types of assignments. “I know it sounds really crazy but I’m the kind of person who will sit there and get inspired by something and I’ll look at it and be like, how does this happen? How is this happening? I ask a lot of questions like hows, and when I do that I generate an assignment around that and I get really excited about the assignment and then I develop that and that becomes my piece of art and I give that to my students and they take that, what I’ve taught them, and then they generate their own unique version of what I’ve created.”
Throughout this school year she’s been taking on a lot more than she would in a normal year including working with John Dowd to help the in-person students in wellness. This has helped many students including myself to get to know her as many students weren’t able to take her art courses this year due to the Covid regulations. 
She gave me some advice for artists just starting out, she said, “create every day, make something exciting every day. Throw yourself into your work in a way that challenges you and when you dream up something and wonder if you can do it try it and the best thing that can come out of trying is a mistake because it will give you the opportunity to think critically and think through where you might have made that mistake. we talk about the happy mistake a lot, a lot of times things are born out of happy mistakes, so I often say be fearless in your art-making.”