Meet Lake View Art Teacher Sharon Finley

This is part of a continuing series of Q&A interviews with the people of Lake View and Amundsen high schools.

Sharon Finley - LVHS Art Teacher.jpg

Q: What’s something few people know about you?

A: While in college I studied in Rome, Italy, through Loyola University. As an art student, it was a pivotal learning experience. I had a drawing class and an art history class that would meet at various locations throughout the city. I still have drawings I did of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica. It was truly a magical experience that I hope my own daughter gets to experience one day.

Q: What brought you to your current position? What do you like best about it?

A: After I earned a B.A. from Loyola University with an emphasis in Drawing and Painting, I spent a few years waiting tables and traveling before I jumped into teaching.

I had heard about Lake View’s amazing art department through artist and teacher friends, and I ended up student-teaching here at Lake View back in 1998-99. LVHS has been the only school I have taught at, and I’m so proud of the work my students have done through these 18+ years. I teach Art I classes, Honors Drawing and Painting, and Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Drawing, as well as AP 2D Portfolio. Teaching art is incredibly rewarding, as I am able to see students build their confidence and voice as artists.

Q: What was your own high school like? How was it similar or different to the school where you work?

A: I went to a community high school up north in Grayslake. In some ways, the experience was quite different, but in many ways, it was very much the same. We had sports and clubs, and students came from different towns to attend the school. I guess the main difference would be that because I came from a small town, everyone knew you and everyone watched out for you. Our students come from all across the city and don’t always feel that the city respects them and takes care of them like a small town does. This is why LVHS has coined the phrase “Lake View is HOME.” We want our school to be a place where our students feel cared for and respected as young people.

Q: What’s one thing you wish people knew about your school?

A: Lake View students bring a ton of passion into what they do. I have had so many amazing students who have gone on to pursue incredible careers. I have had students who are currently pursuing visual arts degrees at major art universities, and I have former students who have gone on to have fulfilling careers in the visual arts field. I also have a former student who now works for NASA as an aerospace engineer and another student who is working toward her Ph.D. in neuroscience. These ambitious young people inspire me beyond belief. Lake View has been their jumping off point and their foundation.

Q: Please share one of the best moments you’ve had working at this school.

A: As an AP Drawing teacher, I have had students create amazing artwork that has won awards and traveled in shows. But the best moments I have had as an art teacher are the moments of awe that happen after a student has struggled with an assignment, battled, and won. I love watching the moment when a student steps back from their artwork and really appreciates what they have created.

Q: What advice would you give to a student just starting out at your school?

A: Seek out classmates who are your allies and peers that support you in being your best self. Seek teachers that you trust, and don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you need it. Be open to all the possibilities that an education can offer you, and do not be afraid to take risks. I have a few fun sayings in my classroom; one is to “make accidents”—“happy accidents”—and another is to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Real learning doesn’t happen unless you make mistakes and work with them. Creating anything is scary and can make you feel vulnerable, but when you get past the fear, there is so much to gain.