As valedictorian of her high school graduating class, Michele Dieterich was strongly discouraged from “wasting” her time pursuing art, so she quieted critics and compromised by earning a degree in filmmaking and animation from Boston University. Now a teacher at Park City’s Treasure Mountain Junior High School, Dieterich wanted to use art to inspire youth, helping them to explore different modes of creativity while at the same time teaching them practical skills that would prepare them for the future. On a deeper level, she wanted to encourage them to learn more about their community and get involved.
With these goals in mind, Dieterich created a Digital Illustration program for eighth graders and a Commercial Art program for ninth graders at Treasure Mountain in 2007. Students are introduced to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign programs, and rather than follow textbook exercises, Dieterich’s students develop their creativity and problem-solving skills by working with real clients, collaborating with local businesses and nonprofits.
“It’s a lot of extra work for me and for the students,” Dieterich says, “but the opportunity to challenge themselves on real-world projects is well worth it.” In addition to expanding her students’ creative muscles, she also has an ulterior motive.
“I want students to learn about local charities and get engaged in their community, to learn the difference between the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, to understand the impact of recycling, to realize the importance of animal rescue, and to value and support the services that nonprofits offer—it provides a connection to their world.” It’s also a great opportunity for students to meet Park City business owners and understand the diplomacy that’s required when working with clients to create a logo or a marketing piece. Students earn accolades, feel a sense of pride, and get a boost in self-confidence when they see their work around town.
Classrooms are equipped with Adobe Creative Suite software, funded by grants from the Park City Education Foundation, and now the school provides computers as well. Dieterich’s classes give students a jump start for continuing multimedia and 3D animation programs at the high school level and help them develop portfolios for college. Her students were creators of town’s recent Bells on Bikes campaign and Squatters’ Earth Day posters, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute chose four student designs for its Science Lite publication. Other clients have included Recycle Utah, Mountain Trails Foundation, Friends of Animals Utah, the Park City Museum, the Special Olympics, and the People’s Health Clinic. Commercial art students are always looking for new clients, too; interested locals can contact Dieterich at 435.645.5640, x3285 to learn more. To see samples of the students’ work, visit parkcitymagazine.com.