- Sponsorship -

Art Teacher Helps Students See, Express Themselves

Art teacher Shawn Dejonge wants to know, “Who are you?”

On the first day of class, Wyoming Intermediate School students walked into the art room to the the sound of English rock band “The Who” singing its legendary question.

Dejonge soon helped students launch into a drawing project combining elements of their personalities and passions. They added symbols representing themselves, like bicycles, basketballs and symbols of faith, into an outline of a Wyoming Wolf, the district mascot.Student depiction of the Wyoming Wolf

Dejonge’s goal was to get them thinking right away about who they are as students, artists, family and community members. He gets the creative juices flowing in ways that have always worked for him, he said, through music and colorful art hanging from the walls and ceiling. Energy permeates the classroom.

Dejonge encourages students at Wyoming Intermediate School to look within, reflect on their likes and dislikes and consider their place in the community. Tapping into their personalities helps them create better art, he believes.

“Whenever you produce art, you want to get the kids to reflect on who they are. The best art you get is from the ideas you pull from inside,” said Dejonge.

Dejonge has taught in the district for 17 years including four years at the Intermediate School. He taught for two years at the district’s former alternative high school, 10 years at Oriole Park, Gladiola and Huntington Woods elementary schools. Before that, he taught in Hammond, Ind.

Encouraging Students to Look WithinA sixth-grade student works on his mask while art teacher Shawn Dejonge leads class

Dejonge was named the 2012-2013 Certified Staff Member of the Year by the district, and received the award for his methods in teaching students to create art as an expression of themselves, including their ethnicities, strengths, and hobbies.

Dean of Students Bobbie Bentley nominated Dejonge.

“Mr. Dejonge uses art as a way to connect cultures, traditions and customs. All students are allowed to express their ethnicity through their art with praise and honor. Mr. Dejonge encourages students to ‘add themselves’ to their work…pour their own thoughts, ideas, individuality and talents into their projects; making them personal,” she wrote to nominate Dejonge.

A graduate of Ottawa Hills High School, Taylor University and Central Michigan University, Dejonge works with many different media and lots of visuals to motivate students. While his specialty is drawing and painting, and he also loves clay and collage.Student depiction of the Wyoming Wolf

“Mr. DeJonge, is very inspiring,” said sixth-grade student Aliyah Brown, as she worked on creating a clay and papier mache’ mask. “He’s really active with us.”

In fifth-grade, Aliyah created a drawing of herself in Dejonge’s class that include “stuff from my childhood and life.”  She added sketches of cakes and a paintbrush, two of her favorite things.

Art Was, Is a Way to Shine

Dejonge said he’s always loved art because of what it meant to him personally. “Art from me was kind of like the difference between self-esteem and no self-esteem,” he said.

He struggled as a student in most subjects, but excelled in art class. “Art was almost survival as a kid,” he said. “Art was so important to me I wanted to make it great for other people.”

Sixth grader Gavin Henry is inspired. “He wants the best out of you. At first, I didn’t really like art but he taught us to be ourselves and express it.”

Finished clay masksBentley said by the school year’s end, student art lines every hallway.

“He spends countless hours after school matting and displaying student artwork throughout the building. It would take a few hours of your time just to walk through and see it all. Our hallways are a virtual museum exhibiting our students’ talents and Shawn’s dedication and work ethic, which are both endless,” she wrote in the nomination form.

Connect: Wyoming Public Schools

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...

Rain gutter regatta showcases buoyancy, engineering skills

An annual boat race has become a highlight of sixth-grade science class. At stake: bragging rights and 'a goofy trophy'...

The Hood family: a school & community leadership dynasty

Five generations have lived within a five- to six-mile radius dating back to a government work program in the 1930s...

The sky’s the limit (or is it?) for this accomplished model builder

Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Pivoting from caretaker to virus tracker

Before Wyoming Public Schools switched to fully remote learning, registered nurse Amy Kamphuis spent the majority of her days tracking COVID-19 data to keep up with positive cases and students and staff who are quarantined...

Babysitting an apple

Ninth-graders wrote apple adventures during the weeklong “35 Ways to Babysit an Apple” project in English teacher Jeremy Schnotala’s class. The writing project inspires creative narratives and lots of drama...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU