By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Jason Treece grew up in Ann Arbor and attended Pittsfield Elementary and Scarlet Middle School before going on to graduate from Huron High School in 1991. He has an older sister, Jennifer, who also attended the same schools.
After high school, Treece joined the United States Marine Corps and served four years in the Marine Corps infantry and as a scout swimmer in a boat company.
Treece was in Operation Restore Hope, which took place in Somalia off the Horn of Africa. It was a humanitarian mission to help and bring stability and aid to its people.
Upon returning to Ann Arbor, Treece attended Washtenaw Community College and then transferred to Eastern Michigan University. He worked for a few years as a graphic designer, eventually returning to Eastern to earn his teaching certification.
His first teaching position was at Huron High School where he taught graphic design and photography. While there, he was awarded a Celebration of Excellence award—a great honor for a new teacher.
He spent one year dividing his time between Pittsfield Elementary and Slauson Middle School, appreciating the opportunity to teach at the elementary school across the street from where he grew up.
After that year, he was moved to Slauson full-time and has been working there for the last nine years.
Treece teaches a variety of art classes, including ceramics and sculpture, graphic design, digital photography, painting and composition, drawing and printmaking, and 6th grade exploratory art.
He is the co-athletic director at Slauson; coaches Slauson’s Boys 7th and 8th-grade soccer team; produces the yearbook; runs the yearbook & LBGQT clubs; and is a member of Slauson’s leadership team.
Treece lives in Saline with his wife Carrie, who works as a lead tech at Huron High School, and their son Aaron, 5. He enjoys spending time with his family, and especially likes hiking and swimming with his son. He also enjoys following the Arsenal football club, though he says it often pains him.
“My wife and I met at Huron,” he says, “so I say: Thank you, Ann Arbor Schools and Dr. Williams, for the opportunity to meet her.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
That is a difficult question, teaching encompasses so many things and has so many variables. I think the best thing that I have learned about teaching is that my students are amazing. They are capable of greatness, not just with amazing art, but as human beings. Teaching is more than just teaching kids what you know about a subject. Teaching is about getting to know your students so you can help them bring out their hidden talents. Art is about expressing one’s self.
Which apps and websites would you recommend to other teachers?
I love the Adobe Suite (not really an app but software) and highly recommend it to anyone who likes digital images or art. There is also a great phone app called Google Arts & Culture that has collaborated with over 1000 museums and galleries to make their exhibits available online.
How has the fact that you are colorblind—or color deficient as you call it— influenced your career?
When I was growing up I can remember thinking that I must see colors differently than others. When I was very young, maybe around six or seven, I can remember arguing with my older sister while playing red light green light. I remember thinking that green lights are not green, that they are white and arguing with my sister about it. I also remember my sister asking to look me over before school and sometimes asking me to change my huge 80’s tube socks because she would tell me they didn’t match. I asked my mom several times if she thought I was colorblind and she would say, “No, you are not.” Well, years go by and while joining the Marines they tested my eyes and confirmed my red and green color blindness. I contacted my Mom and said, “Mom, the Marines just told me I was colorblind.” Her response: “I know.” I was like: “What? Why didn’t you tell me?” She then said, “Jason, your whole life you have loved art and drawing. I never wanted you to get discouraged about what you love and make you feel like you couldn’t be good at it.” I was like, “Wow. I love my mom!”
To this day it is something I am very aware of and it definitely is something I have to be conscious of when teaching and making art. In the end, I prefer to think of myself as color deficient as I see color just different in some cases than most. I always share that story and information with my students. I think it’s important for them to know that sometimes things might get in the way of your dreams, but it’s up to you to figure out a way to adapt and overcome it. I have many students over the years that are also colorblind, and we immediately have a connection that many will never understand. I hope it gives them the strength to not let it stop them from creating amazing art.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
My relationships with students. I view my success not only by what they learn but the connections I make with them. As a teacher, one of the ways I measure my success is how many students keep in contact with me. I have students from Huron who have their own families at this point and Slauson students in colleges all over the country that still keep in touch. The fact that many of my students still keep in touch on their own and spend that time is truly amazing to me.
Who inspires you, and why?
If it’s not my students then it must be my principal at Slauson, Dr. Lisa Anglin. The desire to have successful students and the support that she offers to me and my colleagues is inspiring.
Some say artists are a breed unto themselves. Agree?
My family would definitely agree I’m a different breed.
Were you born an artist?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was that kid who drew on everything all the time. However, to be an artist is like anything else in life, it requires a lot of work and effort.
Where do you picture yourself in five years? Teaching at Slauson Middle School?
I love teaching at Slauson and it has been a great nine years with amazing students. However, I will admit that I miss teaching at the high school level.
Who was your favorite teacher, and why?
I have two favorite teachers: my aunt, Wanda Meyer, who was an art teacher for over 30 years in Brighton and my mentor, Darlene Tankersley (Tank), who retired from teaching art at Huron.
Both of these women represent the best of the best. I am forever grateful for what I have learned from each of them. My aunt always inspired me and encouraged me to take on art, while Tank is my role model in the classroom. To this day, when confronted with something new or challenging, I find myself asking: `What would Tank do?’ That is always a good place for me to start.
What has surprised you most about the profession?
It probably has to be how much time I spend just thinking about what it is I do. Whether student interactions, worries, work, it really is hard at times to shut off. Most people who are not teachers fail to understand how much we really want our students to succeed, not just in our classes.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
That it takes all of us—students, parents, teachers, administrators, support services, and community—to help educate our students. We cannot do it all alone. We all have to be in communication with one another and work as a team with a common goal of student success.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher?
To love your subject is not enough to be a great teacher. You need to love teaching students more. What I mean by this is that teaching is more than just knowing your subject and liking it. You must love trying to get your students to be successful just as much. But be prepared; that’s where the real work is.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spending every minute with my family, especially my five-year-old son Aaron. He recently just started playing soccer and I cannot express how happy that makes me.