Advocate for the Underdog
“I’ve come full circle!” exclaims Shelly Smith Steiger, MAC 1986-88. “When I attended MAC, I lived here. Now, I am the high school art teacher for the Crawford County R-II School District in Cuba. Mr. Walters was a wonderful art teacher who really let us explore our creativity and pushed us beyond our comfort zones. He helped me gain a greater confidence in my abilities. My philosophy remains that I have the ability to create anything I set my mind to, with practice, of course. I learned so much from Mr. Walters. Now, my job is teaching students about the wonderful world of art, and life, and a little bit of counseling!”
The sixth-year teacher professes, “I am a huge advocate for the underdog. Because some kids come from troubled environments, they don’t easily trust and respect adults. My biggest challenge, as well as my biggest reward, is building meaningful relationships with each of my students. I firmly believe there is good in every child. My art club meets after school, and it is a motley crew of characters, usually a large helping of kids which other groups and clubs would avoid and vice versa. The club meets once, sometimes twice, a week and offers an outlet for these kids to express themselves in an accepting environment.” For the past six years, Shelly’s art students won the Gasconade Valley Conference Art Show, earning five ‘Best in Show’ honors.
Shelly continues Mr. Walter’s ideology when it comes to injecting art into students’ lives. “Motivation is critical,” she explains, “Only by understanding my students can I learn what motivates them. Simply knowing someone genuinely cares about them and really wants them to succeed is the biggest motivator for most of my kids. The best reward of all is seeing children gain self-confidence, and with that confidence, know they can do wonderful things with their lives.”
Cuba is the beneficiary of Shelly’s art talents and was honored as the “Route 66 Mural City.” Shelly describes, “The murals depict actual events in Cuba’s history. I was instrumental in the start of the Viva Cuba Mural Project and am very proud to be involved. I worked with Michelle Loughery, an artist in British Columbia, Canada, on a first nation’s mural and learning about her at-risk youth mural program. I was the main artist on The Apple Mural panel. I served as the lead/co-artist on The Amelia, The River, and The Millwork mural panels and assistant artist for The Bank Commemorative and WWII pieces.” See the mural work of Shelly and other artists at www.cubamomurals.com. Shelly is the artist consultant and member of the Viva Cuba, Inc. Community Beautification organization and, for the fifth year, was chosen chair designer for the annual Chair-i-table Auction.
While earning an associate’s degree, Shelly played MAC basketball and transferred to University of the Ozarks (Clarksville, AR) to finish her degree and continue with basketball. “Coach Bradley was my coach…..and a wonderful man!” recalls Shelly. “MAC was always fun. I remember dressing in black, walking to campus with squirt guns and attacking unsuspecting friends as they came out of the library. If you tried that today, you would certainly be disciplined or even be arrested!” Friends and former classmates may contact Shelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.