What do teachers do in the summer when there's no school?
Some undoubtedly take vacations, but Nikiski Middle-Senior High School teacher Dottie Sanders has kept busy spreading the good word of art and language. She returned from the Alaska State Writing consortium in Nome on June 29, where she shared some of her experience with other teachers from around the state.
"This conference is all about giving teachers new methods and ways to turn kids on to writing," Sanders said. "And it gives the teachers themselves some new inspiration. I had a few of them really get turned on to writing for the first time and become writers in just those few days. It's wonderful to see that happen to someone."
Sanders certainly has a lot of teaching experience to share.
Born in Newark, N.J., Sanders attended the State University of New York, where she earned a bachelor's and master's degree in art education and language arts, with painting as her major.
She came to Alaska in 1982 to teach English at the Nome-Beltz School, a job she held for 12 years.
Part of her pleasure in returning to Nome was in meeting some of her former students and seeing what they have done with their lives since graduation.
Sanders moved from Nome to Nikiski six years ago. She taught English at Nikiski High School, then took over the school's art department when former art teacher Jimmy Standifer retired two years ago. She is enthusiastic about expanding the school's art program.
"I've always wanted to teach jewelry making," she said. "This is something most schools don't have. But I cover everything else, too. You have to be multipurpose to teach art; you have to be a painter and a potter and a sculptor all in one. You have to know just enough to be dangerous."
She enjoys passing on her experience in art to her students.
"I love to watch kids blossom in art."
Sanders has done her own blossoming in art, as well. She is having her first solo show of watercolor paintings at Alaskan Gift and Gallery this month and is an active member of the watercolor group at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.
"This group is one of the really exciting things happening recently for artists," she said. "It has allowed me some time and space with a group of people who love painting, for all of us to work together and learn from each other. It has really helped me grow as a painter."
She invites other watercolorists to join the group, which meets every other Saturday at the arts center.
Sanders' husband, Kent, also teaches at Nikiski High School -- chemistry, physics, and biology. "He's the Science Guy," she said.
The couple has two grown children, a son who lives in Portland, Ore., and a daughter who is a professional mountain biker in California.
"In spite of their mother's damaging influence of teaching them art and writing, they both enjoy doing those things for fun now that they're grown up," Sanders said.
That is certainly the one of the greatest compliments a teacher could receive.
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