The Illinois Art Education Association named Art Teacher Jonathan Pruc this year’s High School Art Educator of the Year, and for students and colleagues, Pruc has been inspirational through his own art as well as his teaching.
“Art is vital–not in the sense of shelter and food and security–it exists in the space that gives life meaning,” Pruc said. “And, it’s not limited to painting and drawing; art is any kind of creative functioning.”
Pruc said a varied resume, coaching sports and having teachers to look up to as a high schooler all inspired his career choice.
“I’ve had a number of really exceptional educators who have meant a lot to me in various forms for a number of reasons and also a lot of bad educators who also inspired me,” he said. “Good or bad, I try to learn from those examples.”
In a school setting, Pruc said that the “buildings can be very mundane,” so his art classes break up a routine that everyone has to follow.
“You get to get up out of your seat, you get to experiment, you get to take risks and you get to do things without fear of failure,” he said. “In fact, failure is encouraged in my class.”
David Mork, another art teacher at MHS, said Pruc’s ability to think outside of the traditional way of art and his connection with students that encourages them to go further with their art make him an award-winning teacher.
“There’s always a little bit of fun jabbing that goes on. He’s really good at creating an atmosphere that’s exciting and feels like home,” Mork said. “He’s always working on personal projects to push himself, and I think that’s what makes him such a good teacher.”
Student Remy Loerakker, a senior in Pruc’s AP art class, spoke to ways Pruc inspires his students.
“I think something really valuable that Mr. Pruc has taught me is to not be afraid to express myself,” Loerakker said. “He encourages people to do what they want to do, and it really helps to be more confident about [me] and the art that I make.”
After having Pruc as a teacher for the past four years, Loerakker added that he’s very knowledgeable about the art spectrum and pays attention to who his students are as individuals.
“Something that makes him stand out is that he wants us to be creative and doesn’t discourage us from trying something new,” Loerakker said. “It really allows each person to get to make their own art, helping guide us through.”
Pruc said his teaching style gives him the freedom to explore and take risks, and his goals for the future are to continue to try more and become a better teacher.
He said, “I would like to encourage the school to be more creative [and] develop new programs that students who are not in our classes are making artwork.”