An Artist’s Journey to Inspire
Academics, Features

An Artist’s Journey to Inspire

By Eleni Bow

“Some students have a class they look forward to every day. For me, that class became art.” – Mr. Chad Steele

He sits at a large table, bent over a discombobulated figure. His fingers spread a new layer of paper pulp over the sculpture. He’s been making art for years, hoping to one day share his knowledge, but for now, he’s learning just as much as he’s teaching. 

Mr. Chad Steele is this semester’s student teacher for one of Delta’s art teachers, Mrs. Helen Zacek. Steele had been waiting for this opportunity since last spring and was ecstatic to learn that he had been placed with her. 

He knew that Zacek had a strong teaching style and a well-developed curriculum and took pride in working with a fellow Ball State University alumnus. 

Two teachers
Student teacher Chad Steele builds up his ceramic piece with the guidance of mentor Mrs. Helen Zacek, art teacher. (Photo by Eleni Bow)

“I want to teach art because it gives us an opportunity to express, reflect and create a commentary on the world around us,” Steele says. While he loves art as a whole, he is most interested in teaching ceramics. Currently, he is beginning to slowly phase into teaching the Ceramics 2 and Ceramics 3 classes.

Steele is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in visual arts education, with a studio focus in ceramics. Once he completes student teaching, he will graduate this spring. However, this past school year hasn’t been an easy one for anyone in a major that requires such hands-on work. 

Some of the classes he has taken at Ball State include printmaking and a figure drawing class. Additionally, Steele is also enrolled in more academic-focused classes, such as educational psychology.

His education hasn’t been made any easier by Covid-19.

“One of the more challenging aspects of eLearning with my major is the physical aspect of making art,” he says. “For example, it’s impossible to throw a ceramic pot at home if you do not have equipment like a potter’s wheel.” 

He says he enjoyed having the opportunity to make his own schedule, but struggled with a lack of communication with his professors, and even students when he had to participate in online group presentations. Steele also felt a detachment from his peers. 

A big part of completing a teaching education path means meeting the Educational Teacher Performance Assessment, or EdTPA, requirements. Steele says this has been increasingly difficult because of Covid-19.

According to Chicago State University, the EdTPA is a “content specific performance-based national assessment for teacher candidates’ readiness to teach.” This means candidates must “gather and use evidence of student engagement and learning.”

Student teacher in class
Mr. Chad Steele puts extra pieces of clay into the reclaim bucket after working with clay for the day. (Photo by Eleni Bow)

Another part of pursuing a teaching career means exploring and developing personal teaching styles. Steele’s teaching style is derived from areas such as Discipline-Based Art Education, or DBAE, and other ideologies. 

“I often think about student self-esteem when engaging with students,” he says.

The DBAE focuses on teachings such as art history, aesthetics, and art criticism. When teaching his classes, Steele likes to use the opportunity to inspire students with artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds. “I believe it is important to expose yourself to art from other cultures,” he says. 

Along with their cultural background, Steele enjoys analyzing an artist’s intent, and hopes to implement the idea into his own  teachings. “This helps students think about the intent behind their own artworks,” he says. “If it’s a ceramic pot, what is its intent? Is it intended to be a pitcher with an aesthetically pleasing design, or do you want to create a sculptural form that becomes unusable?” 

When Steele came to Delta at the start of the second semester, he was comforted by the liveliness and welcoming energy. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know school faculty through conversations at lunch,” he says. He has also enjoyed meeting and working with the student body, and wants them to know he’s on their side. 

“High school is challenging, especially during times like these, but that isn’t going to stop either of us from doing our best,” Steele says. 

After a day of observing and teaching at Delta, he returns home to be greeted by his plants.

“I’ve always liked taking care of plants but have bought more since the pandemic started last spring,” he says.

Besides plants, Steele likes to practice crocheting and tries to incorporate it into his other areas of art as much as possible. A few of the art forms he’s been able to combine it with include digital art, watercolor, and sculpture. 

For one of his ceramic projects, he was able to integrate crochet into the border of a clay cake stand.

 “I wrapped the crochet around the cake stand. The crochet was dipped in slip, liquid clay, and sprayed multiple times,” he explains. “The yarn burns out during the bisque firing and leaves a delicate mold of clay.”

While Steele is originally from South Bend, Ind., there’s a special place in his heart for the state of Michigan. “I have many fond memories of visiting relatives in Michigan,” he says. This love was expressed through a public art installation piece he created.

The Mackinac bridge connects the Upper Peninsula to the rest of Michigan. Inspired by the bridge, he created the sculpture of a suspension bridge made of hand-knitted cables. 

Steele will be at Delta until the end of April, and until then, he is excited to create pieces whilst teaching and inspiring students. 

 Mackenna Bell, a sophomore in Ceramics 3, has gotten a good impression from Mr. Steele. Project ideas and encouragement are just a few of the things he has already provided her. 

“He’s never sitting down,” Bell says. “He’s always interacting with us.” 

Once an education student is ready, their college then assigns them to a teacher to shadow. Ball State reached out to Mrs. Zacek to take Mr. Steele under her wing. Naturally, she accepted. 

Before the roadblock of Covid-19, the student teacher would normally conduct a visit to the school to meet their mentor and get a quick overview of the school and student body. 

This year, however, an extra visit wasn’t possible. “The first time I actually had a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Steele was on his first day here,” Zacek says. 

Once the student teacher falls into a routine and is comfortable, their mentor will begin phasing them into their teachings. The student teacher will conduct their own lessons soon after. Mr. Steele already has lesson plans for each of Zacek’s classes. 

Zacek enjoys the opportunity to have Steele working with her. She appreciates the collaboration and freshness of a younger, eager student teacher. Working with a student teacher also helps to keep her own teachings fresh. 

“[Having a student teacher] exposes me to new strategies within the educational community,” she says. 

While it may involve additional tasks and paperwork, having Mr. Steele has been a pleasant experience for Zacek. She has appreciated his determination, preparedness, and most importantly, his understanding of her humor. 


February 8, 2021

About Author

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Eleni Bow Eleni Bow watches too many cartoons and takes too many photographs. Never seen without paint on her hands. An aspiring photojournalist and journalist while a senior (!) in high school. Stops to pet every cat or dog she sees. A day filled with new experiences is a day well spent. A day without a rainstorm is a day wasted. Currently listening to I Won't by AJR and THAT SUX by Royal and the Serpent.


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