‘She doesn’t leave any­body be­hind’

Oak Lawn pho­tog­ra­phy teacher is top art ed­u­ca­tor

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jan­ice Neu­mann Jan­ice Neu­mann is a free­lancer for the Daily South­town.

When Marissa Perales’ pho­to­graph of her­self with her two moth­ers re­cently ap­peared in a New York Times ar­ti­cle about Gen Z, she said the credit should go to her high school art teacher, whoin­spired her to take the pic­ture and en­ter the news­pa­per’s teen photo con­test.

“I wanted to re­ally cap­ture the warmth of my house­hold,” said Perales, a se­nior at Oak Lawn Com­mu­nity High School, who was named a run­ner-up in the con­test for the pic­ture. “It’s all be­cause of Ms. (Jen­nifer) War­gin.”

For that and other teach­ing ef­forts, War­gin re­cently won the Illi­nois Art Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion Sec­ondary Art Ed­u­ca­tor of the Year award for 2018. The Illi­nois Art Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion pre­sented her with the award af­ter re­ceiv­ing en­thu­si­as­tic en­dorse­ments from school ad­min­is­tra­tors. War­gin is a mem­ber and an ed­i­tor for one of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s pub­li­ca­tions.

Perales, who lives in Oak Lawn, said War­gin en­cour­ages stu­dents to look at the tech­ni­cal de­tails of pho­to­graphs and an­a­lyze what the pic­tures mean to them per­son­ally dur­ing her pho­tog­ra­phy class.

“It’s the en­ergy she sparks in the class that makes peo­ple very ex­cited and want to learn,” said Perales, who hopes to work in film pho­tog­ra­phy. “She gives us free range to do what­ever we want to ex­press our­selves.

“She also caters to every­body’s needs and work ethics at their level. … She doesn’t leave any­body be- hind.”

Oak Lawn Com­mu­nity High School Prin­ci­pal Jeana Li­etz said she was struck byWar­gin’s en­thu­si­asm and ded­i­ca­tion to teach­ing, even af­ter 19 years at the job.

“To me it’s that she al­ways has the stu­dents at the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing she does,” said Li­etz. “She’ll work hard, she’ll be here late hours, all in the in­ter­est of serv­ing the kids.”

Li­etz said War­gin was of­ten nom­i­nated by stu­dents for teacher awards. War­gin is also an in­struc­tional coach, giv­ing other teach­ers tips on how to in­flu­ence stu­dents.

“A lot of times for her, it’s about stu­dent en­gage­ment, how to get stu­dents ex­cited about new con­tent,” said Li­etz, ex­plain­ingWar­gin re­cently showed an English teacher how stu­dents could turn a piece of cre­ative writ­ing into art.

To mo­ti­vate stu­dents, War­gin said she en­cour­aged them to pho­to­graph things they­were in­ter­ested in.

“Ihave the stu­dents write about their ear­li­est child­hood­mem­ory,” saidWar­gin. “Their last pho­tog­ra­phy project will be based on this writ­ing they did.

“I like to in­cor­po­rate so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing in the cur­ricu­lum.”

Teach­ing stu­dents to uti­lize tech­ni­cal re­sources is also im­por­tant, whether through Pho­to­shop or work­ing in the dark­room, saidWar­gin.

“One of the chal­lenges for the kids is they need to know how to use re­sources,” saidWar­gin. “Peo­ple ex­pect them to be 21st- cen­tury learn­ers.”

War­gin said the school helped her win the award.

“I don’t think this has any­thing to do with me as much as it does the ad­min­is­tra­tion andmy stu­dents. … They’re brave. They let me do a lot with them.”


Oak Lawn Com­mu­nity High School stu­dent Marissa Perales’ pho­to­graph of her­self with her two moth­ers re­cently was pub­lished in The New York Times af­ter her teacher, Jen­nifer War­gin, en­cour­aged Perales to sub­mit the photo for a con­test.

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