Conant High School art teacher earns state honor

James B. Conant High School art teacher Luke Jenner made it a 10-year goal to earn state recognition from the Illinois Art Education Association.

He hit the mark two years early.

Jenner, who started with Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 eight years ago, has been named the 2022 Secondary Art Educator of the Year.

"All of my role models in the field have been in the career a lot longer than I have. They have been there five to 10 years longer," Jenner said. "Getting it this early has been a surprise."

Jenner began his District 211 career dividing his time between Hoffman Estates and Conant high schools, but has been exclusively at Conant the last five years. He teaches a variety of digital art classes, including graphic design, 3-D modeling, and video animation, as well as AP Art History and Art in Contemporary Society.

His desire to become an art teacher developed as a high school student.

"I was inspired by my own art teachers at Cary-Grove High School," he said. "Teaching art means getting to teach things like problem solving and critical thinking, as well as creative expression, which I think is so important for a student in the 21st century."

This is the second consecutive year that a Conant educator has been recognized by the Illinois Art Education Association. Last year, Department Chair Erin Garrity-Duffey was named Art Administrator of the Year for the state.

Jenner said the two awards reflect positively on Conant's art department - and Garrity-Duffey's work.

"I was excited to come to Conant because of Erin's leadership," he said. "She has built a community of teachers who want to excel. She has created a space for us to grow into the best versions of ourselves as teachers."

Working in digital art is a field Jenner said can be challenging but exciting.

"What's great is that a lot of tools I am teaching right now, such as some of the graphic design software, weren't around when I was a student," he said. "It is tough because a lot of the students that are going to be working in digital art are going to be working in jobs that don't exist now. The biggest thing we teach is how to teach themselves, because the tools are going to keep evolving and growing."

To that end, Jenner said his advice for future art teachers, and all educators, is to keep learning.

"Be very open to learning from your students," he said. "They are going to take these tools and learn different aspects and use them in ways you did not think of. We need to set that tone to show that, in many ways, we are still learning with our students."

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