Our Inspired Teachers: Nance Leonhardt

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

 From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Nance Leonhardt, US art

Bachelor's in fine arts, radio, TV, and film, Evergreen State College. Master's in teaching, Seattle University. At CGS since 2007.

 

I became a teacher because of my classmate Steve Parkey. I must have spent more than 75% of my young life with Steve, and the only thing I could say about him was that he wore a lot of brown.
 
Everything changed during my sophomore year when I enrolled in a graphic design class. My teacher was a working artist (known by her last name, Hall), the epitome of cool, who wore chic French clothing and oversized tribal jewelry. One day in class I heard her shriek, “Oh, Mr. Parkey, how MARVELOUS!” She pulled us around to see his illustration—a Boeing commuter heading for work in a series of panels where the vehicle shifted from a pogo stick to a 747. Hall pointed out the clever mutation of lines, the way the drawing seemed to accelerate across the page and come to life. In that moment, she was able to tease out the rare and beautiful in Steve Parkey. He morphed from brown to golden and glittered in our eyes.
 
Under Hall’s tutelage I learned how to silkscreen, solder, and edit video. She fed us a steady diet of new techniques and mind-contorting design prompts. Each person’s solution was cause for celebration in Hall’s studio, and I saw her greatest creative work in those moments.
 
When I reflect on my years in the profession, everything links back to my days with Hall. I teach the same topics, I occasionally wear chic French clothes, etc.—but her imprint is most evident in my relationships with students. I’ve been proud to send students to USC Film School or see them launch creative careers. However, it’s those whose artistic brilliance may be less evident, those who land in careers far afield of what they’ve done in my classes that call me to teach each day. They keep in touch, reminding me that I’ve glimpsed the golden in them, and that is divine.