Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on RTR teacher Paul Tuszynski's trip to Turkey. Part two will appear in Saturday's paper.
TYLER - As one of 81 teachers nationwide to receive the opportunity to tour the country of Turkey this past summer, visual arts instructor Paul Tuszynski returned home with a new perspective and creative ideas he plans to incorporate into his classrooms.
Tuszynski is in his sixth year of teaching at the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton High School. He also teaches K-4 at Lynd School and online classes to Hendricks students in grades 9-12.
Photo courtesy of Paul Tuszynski
While visiting a rural school in Turkey, area art teacher Paul Tuszynski snapped this photo of Turkish schoolchildren singing their national anthem. As with most public buildings, a portrait of Ataturk, who revolutionized Turkey, can be seen hanging in the classroom.
"The biggest thing I took away was just an appreciation for the arts over there," Tuszynski said. "I was amazed by the arts and the crafts over there. It's just so much different than what we have. Everything is so bright in color, so vivid. Their tiles were big, primarily blue, but they were amazing."
On the 14-day trip in July, which was funded through the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) to promote tourism, Tuszynski joined 26 other teachers, including three others from Minnesota. With the exception of South Dakota, most of those teachers came from either the West Coast or the East Coast of the United States.
"It was very interesting when you got to talk to these teachers," Tuszynski said. "They're from all sides of the U.S. It was interesting to see the similarities in teaching and some of the differences. But there were mostly similarities between most of us. It was very fascinating."
In the group, primarily made up of cultural or history teachers, Tuszynski was the only art teacher.
"The gal from the TCF said it was rare that they take art teachers, so I felt fortunate that I was able to go," he said. "It was so interesting."
While the tour guides, including two Turkish teachers who spoke very good English, catered a little bit more to the history side of tourist attractions, Tuszynski didn't mind.
"I was obviously interested more in the visual, the fine arts, dance, any type of theatric type stuff," he said. "That was the most interesting to me, but it was also very interesting to hear the history and the background. As you're on these bus rides, and they may last three hours, the guide would kind of give you the history of the places you were going to see. Then you walk in and see everything and remember what the guide was talking about. You had the background before you got there, so you were prepared."
Tuszynski had the unique opportunity to visit three schools. The first was a big city public school in Istanbul, which was right on the Bosphorus Strait.
At the second school, which was very rural in a little village, the group of educators got to meet some of the children.
"It was a first- through eighth-grade school I think," Tuszynski said. "They spoke some English but not comfortably, so they were a little nervous. But we had people who could translate, so it worked out pretty well."
Tuszynski pointed out the rural school was surrounded by gravel roads instead of tar and that the school was actually supported by the TCF. The building itself, he said, was in pretty good shape.
"They adopt some schools and give them money," Tuszynski said. "They had just received, I think the year before, their first SMARTBoard type thing, a projector screen type thing. The school still had wood floors and was more of a stucco type building, not the block, concrete buildings we see here."
The third school, Tuszynski said, was like a college preparatory school.
"It was more exclusive," he said. "It was open strictly to children who had lost a parent. It was kind of a neat opportunity."
Upon returning home to Minnesota, Tuszynski decided to incorporate some of what he'd learned on the trip into three new classroom projects. So far, students have created tile designs similar to those Tuszynski observed in Turkey. In the near future, he plans to have the students do a paper marbling project and an architectural sculpture project.
"I would never have thought of those ideas had I not been there," he said. "I did some research before I went, looking at things I thought were feasible for a school our size, with a budget and that kind of thing. Things that we could afford to do and yet still utilize what I got out of it and hopefully what they get out of the presentation I do for my classes, too."
While Turkish paper marbling, called ebru, which means two-tone marbling, is done by using ox bile, the RTR students will soon begin their projects using an alternative method.
"I'm getting a kit that doesn't have actual authentic bile from the stomach of an ox," Tuszynski said. "You put drops of paint on the surface of the water and then you use a stick to stir it and create a design."
Like oil on water, the paint floats, Tuszynski said.
A third project is one he incorporated into this year's 3-D art curriculum.
"I'm going to show them pictures of mosques and some of the historical buildings I saw when I was there," he said. "I'll have them do some type of interpretative architectural sculptural project, where they basically create a building, hopefully inspired by the images I show."
All this week, students in 2-D, 3-D and advanced visual art classes at RTR High School will have an art show to display the variety of projects they have completed so far this year. The temporary gallery is located in the former ECFE room near the superintendent's office and is open from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. this week.