Shaping the Class

Courtesy of Dafne Calderon
Dafne Calderon, Class of 2020, shows off the embroidery she made during quarantine in her ceramics class.

Some classes are relatively easy to teach online. Ceramics is not one of them. Marcos Torres, a former English teacher of six years, began teaching ceramics two years ago. Because of the necessary in-person instruction and costly materials of ceramics, the switch to online learning last March presented clear difficulties. 

“I was left scratching my head,” Torres admitted.

He worried about unfinished projects with the change in curriculum. As ceramics is primarily about three-dimensional art and not necessarily working with clay, Torres explained how he assessed all of his possible options before deciding how to continue the class. Because he was unable to distribute clay, he compiled a list of common household items most people would have at home, giving students the autonomy to use their creativity and implement their personal touch.

When projects were due at the end of the year, Torres said he was impressed and happy to see the creativity in the students’ work. He added that his class served as a welcomed distraction and a form of meditation for everyone during virtual learning.

One of his students was Dafne Calderon, who graduated in the spring.

“I decided to take ceramics because I knew it was an art class, and the clay building had caught my eye,” Calderon said.

She also mentioned that she found greater enjoyment in the class before the quarantine, as her biggest disappointment was being unable to finish one of her projects.

“We were doing a lighthouse project at the time, and I was bummed out that I did not get to finish it, with clay going bad after it sits out for too long,” she said.

Fortunately, not all was disappointing, as she was able to quickly learn the new material when the class switched to online learning. 

When she was younger, Calderon watched and helped her mother do embroidery, so when quarantine began she decided to return to this hobby because of the available materials at home. Her proudest completed work is a Winnie the Pooh embroidery. Calderon, who will begin her English studies at Vanguard University this fall, explained that though she has less available time these days, she does plan to continue her art and hopes to take another ceramics class soon.

Lucy Rosales, on the other hand, took ceramics last year as a freshman. She had heard about the class as an eighth grader, and her curiosity led her to sign up. Her favorite part about the class was being able to meet new people because of the social environment.

Similar to Calderon, her main concern was not being able to finish her mugs and lighthouse she had invested so much time working on. Instead, Calderon decided to take up origami, which she learned through YouTube videos Torres provided, making an assortment of differently colored flowers and butterflies. Rosales enjoyed working on these paper projects, as they were almost therapeutic for her.

“On Sunday I would put on music and just work on my origami,” she said.

As soon as she has some free time, Rosales plans on going back to doing some of her own projects, with the help of YouTube.

Things will be different for Torres’ class this year. Over the summer, he spent a great deal of time looking into a variety of projects he would have his classes work on. He also plans to make videos to demonstrate the work, and he refuses to leave any student behind.

“My goal is to provide each kid with clay,” Torres said, “to make sure the class can have a similar experience as my other classes had.”