Photo taken by Camila Moreno
Students closely watched as she picked up a paintbrush and began to dip it in a cup of water. Then she took a palette of watercolors and activated one color with the water. Next, she took the paintbrush and gently stroked it across the piece of paper, spreading the paint evenly and smoothly with every touch.
After her example of illustration was orchestrated, students began to pick up their own paint brushes. They dipped them in a pot of water and activated their individual watercolor palettes. Students then used her watercolor technique to guide them through the art process as they all started stroking their paper, creating various original paintings.
Anyone who has taken Art 1, Art 2 or Art 3 has probably encountered the privilege of being taught by Megan Herrick. This is her sixth year teaching at Sage Creek, and she previously taught Art 1, Art 2, Ceramics and Digital Photography at Carlsbad High School. Currently, she is not only an art teacher at Sage, but she is also the VAPA Department Chair and a committee member for the City of Carlsbad Cultural Arts Office.
With all she is involved in, not only students but teachers and staff noticed as well. She was voted Sage Creek’s Teacher Of the Year.
“Art is the best way to communicate,” Herrick explains, “I’m not the most effective communicator, but with art there’s always things you can say that you are not able to articulate with words, and you’re able to do so with imagery.”
Although Herrick has always been artistic, it took various obstacles to finally land on her dream career.
“When I was in high school I thought about being an artist and teaching, but I was afraid I wouldn’t make enough money as an art teacher,” Herrick said, “I went to school to be a doctor, and it wasn’t until my second year of college that I realized that wasn’t what I really wanted to do.”
Herrick had to listen to her own aspirations and make a decision that would alter her life.
“In my heart, I always knew what I wanted to do. Somehow art always came back to me,” Herrick said with a smile.
Her approach when teaching her passion involves opening her students up to a variety of “real-world” teachers.
“I don’t like saying there’s only one way to do something,” Herrick explains, “I teach [students] about different artists with completely different styles, but they’re using the same process. Introducing students to more artists and more techniques is a big part of teaching.”
She strongly emphasizes how it is crucial to cater to students’ talents individually.
“Nobody fits into a box, especially with the arts, because everybody has their own interpretation,” Herrick remarked, “Getting to know the students and getting to know where they’re coming from is a big part of how I gage the learning process.”
Visual Arts Teacher Cathryn Burroughs is Herrick’s old-time close colleague and friend. Before teaching at Sage Creek together, they both worked in the arts at CHS for eight years.
“[Herrick] has always gone above and beyond. She’s been a community-wide supporter of the arts for as long as I’ve known her and has done way more than she ever had to do as an art teacher,” Burroughs exclaims, “She is 150 percent into the arts.”
Burroughs feels they have a really good partnership together.
“We just kind of fit,” Burroughs explains, “She’s very organized and sees the big picture. When we brainstorm together our ideas flow really harmoniously together.”
Herrick not only collaborates with Burroughs, but she also pushes her to be a better art teacher and helps to nudge her in the right direction. Her creative qualities of innovativeness, novelty and leadership provide essential guidance to those around her.
“She’s a leader… [Herrick] leads the whole VAPA Department, and I build off of her leadership,” Burroughs said, “I build off of her ability to organize and put things together so I’m not all over the place. I build off of her creativity and I build off of her relentless search for excellence.”
Burroughs feels Herrick has an unfaltering determination, dedication and impact in the workplace.
“She’s constantly educating herself, and constantly coming up with new ideas,” Burroughs explains, “It’s very inspirational for me to work alongside her.”
Junior Brenna Kelly, who took multiple art classes with Herrick, says that her compassionate personality and creative teaching methods were impactful on her perspective of the arts.
“Motherly, helpful, and inspirational, [Herrick] would always guide us through the art process,” Kelly states, “She would support my ideas and artwork. She really focuses on the talents of each student and helps them learn individually.”
Outside of the classroom, Herrick is a mother to four little kids. She is constantly balancing all of her current activities and her personal life and maintains her outstanding gracious attitude as she does it.
Burroughs, in awe of Herrick’s accomplishments, questions how it’s at all possible.
“I don’t know how she does it. Nobody knows how she does it. She’s Wonder Woman!”
This story was originally published on The Sage on March 18, 2019.