Art Education major brings pop culture inspiration, nurturing personality to the classroom


Austin Shaw

Haley Esnz is hired as a middle school art teacher.

Going out of her way to help people is second nature for senior art education major Haley Ensz.

“I’m drawn to jobs where I get to help people,” Haley Ensz said.

There’s a flash of glitter on her cheeks. “The glitter’s from last night. I was helping a friend with a dance project.”

Ensz successfully juggles roles as a student, teacher, and advocate in her final year at Wichita State. Luckily, Ensz said she flourishes with a busy schedule.

“I thrive off of having too much to do, and if I don’t have enough to do, I kind of freak out about it,” she said.

Ensz spends the week student-teaching at Earhart Environmental Magnet School, where she instructs elementary children in art. She describes the kids as “very sweet,” lauding the school for its attention to environmental issues and its unparalleled dedication to serving students. Under the tutelage of a cooperative teacher, she leads the kids in hands-on activities.

“With the kids, we did scout badges for Earth Day,” Ensz said. “I asked them what they did for the Earth that day, and then we made accomplishment badges and sashes out of them.”

The most rewarding part of teaching for Ensz is nurturing her students who need help with socialization, she said.

“I really like it when kids that don’t get along with most people get along with me,” Ensz said. “I can invest in them and help them get along with others — help them to be good people.”

Next year, Ensz will transition to teach at Pleasant Valley Middle School, a Title I school that faces different challenges than her current placement.

“I really want to try to meet the needs of the school,” Ensz said.

“Looking at some test scores, I can see that they need help with literacy.”

Creativity is central to her class planning. She’s uses pop culture as a springboard for assignments, citing Pikachu, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” as recent germs of inspiration for her kids’ art projects.

“I’m excited to do some fun lessons with them,” Ensz said. “I already have a comic book lesson planned.”

Ensz is a believer in learning as much as you can.

“I would really want more collaboration between teachers,” Ensz said. “(I wish there was) more of a culture where if you mess up, it’s okay, let’s keep going. Both students and teachers could benefit from this, because then you would build an environment conducive for learning. As a society we’re so focused on achievements.”

A drive toward community work has served Ensz well. These unique attributes were on display in her role as an advocate in the Educational Opportunity Fund Committee for Student Government Association earlier this year. Ensz challenged precedent, and created a more diverse representation on the committee.

“I think when systemic things stay the way they are, and no one fights against them, nothing really happens,” Ensz said reflecting on her time on the committee. “I like to fix things. I like to help where I can.”

As Ensz wraps up her time at WSU, she has a few words of advice for incoming students.

“Start small and do everything well. Take time for yourself and take time for others. Even though you’re so focused on school, it’s really important to keep your friendships and family relationships going. Try not to be too busy for those things.”

In five years’ time, Ensz hopes to be still teaching and learning as much as she can. But ultimately, it’s about her students.

“I would love to have my kids involved in the community, and try to boost their spirits a little bit. If I’m not teaching, I’m sure I’ll be serving the community in whatever job I’m in.”