By Melody Brinigar
She stepped in to cover a design class when the teacher went to China in 2010. “He never came back, so I stayed,” said Martha Fitzwater, adjunct professor of art.
This semester Fitzwater is teaching Painting Studio I on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Fitzwater earned a bachelor of art education, from the University of Kansas in 1971. She taught in seven different school districts at all grade levels, except kindergarten for 32 years and retired from the Winfield public school system in May, 2011.
Teaching is Fitzwater’s dream job. “This is just the end of the dream job. It’s a nice ending of a long career of teaching,” said Fitzwater.
Fitzwater enjoys the pace now that she has retired. “I can really focus on these kids,” said Fitzwater.
In the beginning of her classes, she starts her students with the very basics and then it’s step by step from there.
Fitzwater strives to explain art to her students in a manner they will understand. “Because I’m so talkative and loquacious, I hit it from several different angles. I give them another ‘for instance.’”
Abdullah Alamer, computer science sophomore, is in Painting Studio I. Fitzwater encourages Alamer to use diverse styles when he designs his projects. “She teaches us to use our imagination in our art,” said Alamer.
“I want to help the students build a solid foundation of art, enough to express their opinion of why they appreciate or not appreciate a piece of art,” said Fitzwater. “I want to help create a greater appreciation for the thought and time that was taken for another to produce their piece of art.”
This semester Fitzwater has more than 15 international students in her class. Fitzwater said, “They are a loooonnnng way from home. How crazy that must be, to come this far, and then be met with that academic wall that says, ‘you must,’ instead of ‘I’ll make an effort to be here when you can be here.’”
Rose Hanna, faculty assistant for Performing Arts, said, “She’s taking on these extra students. It’s not like she has more work. It’s more like she has an opportunity to help more people.”
Fitzwater is willing to find time to help her students.
Hanna said Fitzwater is constantly giving and is accommodating. “She comes in extra days if her students need extra help,” said Hanna.
Fitzwater isn’t looking for advancement. Instead, she applies her energy and compassion towards her students. “All I can do now is be like the grandmotherly art teacher,” said Fitzwater.
Alamer said, “She’s like our mother. She is awesome.”
Hanna said, “We are really lucky to have her.”
Fitzwater enjoys her life. She enjoys teaching.
“I don’t have enough hands, fingers or toes to count the students I’ve enjoyed working with. I couldn’t have picked a better career to match what I like doing,” said Fitzwater.
Melody Brinigar is an undergraduate majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.