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Success Stories

Different Ways of Seeing

Posted on April 17, 2014

Picture of Johnson and Fryer

How Judy Johnson, associate professor of English, and Dr. Celia Fryer, professor of Spanish, came to be sitting side-by-side at easels in John Tyler Community College’s art lab is a combination of a thousand different factors, not the least of which is that they both always want to improve as teachers. 

In the art lab, the two college professors are students, practicing different ways of looking at their areas of expertise and their own classrooms.  Johnson carefully recreates the folds in the dress in her painting, a copy of a Eudora Welty Works Progress Administration (WPA) photograph.  Welty’s short stories were the focus of Johnson’s thesis, and American literature of the early 20th century continues to be one of her favorite subjects.  Working on art pieces from the era gives her a different way of researching the time and understanding the subject. 

Perched on a nearby stool, Fryer analyzes whether or not she has accurately captured the colors and designs of the native dress in her piece, an oil painting of a women in Guatemala.  The painting is a tribute to Fryer’s childhood in Guatemala, which very much influences her passion for teaching Spanish at the College. 

As they paint, the two encourage each other.  When they are stumped, they turn to Colin Ferguson, professor of art, for help.  All the while, they are recharging their brains for their own classrooms.  “Doing this brings a lot of empathy to my classroom,” says Johnson. 

“I agree with Judy, and it’s also a nice break from grading papers,” jokes Fryer.

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