Alumni Showcase: Amy Gerking Anderson ('89)
Amy Gerking Anderson ('89) has been teaching art at Le Mars community schools for 33 years. This spring, she will be retiring from teaching. Her passion for art and ability to connect with students has been incredibly impactful on the community.
“Even though I am retiring after this school year, I can honestly say that teaching art is the BEST. When you can share your love of creating with young minds, it is fulfilling beyond expectations.”
Anderson graduated from Morningside as a chief in 1989. After graduating with a degree in art education and a minor in psychology, she went on to attain her Master of Education from Southwest Minnesota State University. Originally an English major, and later a biology major, Anderson did not consider art until a friend of her mother’s said she would be silly not to utilize her art skills. Additionally, both of her parents had been teachers, and so the path was clear.
“My father is an amazing artist, and my mother is very creative. I have always spent my time trying various art techniques. We had all kinds of arts and crafts books at home (no internet back then!!) and I tried to make EVERYTHING! I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my love of art and being a maker. Their creativity not only helped me realize my dream, but also helped my brother pursue his dream of making movies,” said Anderson.
Anderson’s unrelenting passion for art has carried throughout her years of teaching middle school for 14 years and elementary school for 19 years. She explained that more than anything else, it is essential to show the students how much you care about your subject
“Kids can tell if you love what you are teaching. It is very important to establish rules and stability right away. You gain their trust and respect and THEN you will become a vital part of their lives as a safe adult.”
Having taught for over three decades, Anderson has seen it all in the classroom. Some of her favorite teaching memories involve funny things students have said. The wild things students say and do make every day interesting for her. She has enjoyed working in the middle and elementary school atmospheres.
“Middle schoolers are another weird and wonderful breed. I have laughed so hard teaching tweens,” said Anderson. “Except for the times they dare each other to drink clay glaze or table spray. Yes. They are our future leaders. (Insert eye roll here.) They like to climb into garbage cans and are unable to walk under a doorway without slapping the top of the opening, but middle school students are the goofiest and if you gain their respect, you will have it forever.” She would like to especially thank her current eighth grade students for taking these “glorious” photos—as they called them—of her.
Reflecting on her inspiration for students’ art projects, she remembers having to teach herself new skills in her early days of teaching. This was one of the most difficult aspects of her job, especially because she was the only art teacher at that grade level.
Anderson said, “Early in my career I only had the projects that I taught during my student teaching to fall back on. Eventually, I would figure out an art skill I wanted the students to learn and create a project around that skill.”
Thankfully, Morningside’s teaching program prepared her for these challenges. “Morningside’s education and art departments gave me the confidence to try new ideas and planning. I was paired up with exceptional teachers as a student teacher and they set me on a clear path to success.”
Anderson has been in the field long enough to see developments in the way that teachers can share ideas with each other. Utilizing teaching platforms on the internet has been especially great for learning new techniques to share with her students.
“Today there are so many art teacher groups online, and the internet is a great asset for finding new ideas and bouncing plans off of other teachers. I have taught myself so many new and fun art techniques just so that I could teach those skills to my students!”
Anderson is grateful for the memorable experiences she has had both in Le Mars and at Morningside. She is still in contact with many of her professors from her college days. “I would like to especially acknowledge Dr. Ocker, John Bowitz, Frank Breneisen and the late Dave West for being the best instructors, friends and support staff for me at Morningside while I was there.”
She also made some incredible friendships while living on campus. “We still get together and laugh about all the fun we had. Some of my favorite memories are my dorm room being filled with balloons and my fish replaced with a tuna can,” she reminisced. “Tricking each other with ice cream cones that had potatoes or coleslaw stuffed in the cones and being ninja-coated by the late Robb McMullen. We used to have dances on the rooftop of Dimmitt Hall, and EVERYONE tuned into the radio show Robin (Korthals) Wissink 89, and I had on 88.3!”