Hunter Tompkins

Special Correspondent

Example of work created by HHS senior Sarah Knapp in Mr. Shiff's class. Source: http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/ArtistMonth/

Example of work created by HHS senior Sarah Knapp in Mr. Shiff’s class. Source: http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/ArtistMonth/

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to go back to your roots and imagine what it would be like to look back at your past from a different point of view? That’s what happened for Holliston High School’s new art teacher, and class of 2001 alumnus, Mr. Zachary Shiff.

Mr. Lack, his former art teacher, described Mr. Shiff as a “cerebral” student, who was very dedicated, very experimental with his art, and very concerned about the contemporary styles of art, saying that he has always been “modern.”

When asked about how he is as a teacher, he said that Mr. Shiff has matured, greatly, and he’s always trying to improve what he can do, namely with his interactions with students and how he teaches the curriculum.

Mr. Lack believes that the art curriculum has changed, and “revamped” significantly since the late 90’s and early 2000’s when Shiff was a student. The Advanced Portfolio and Art Honors classes have been built up over the years, and the digital age has pushed art and art techniques and styles tremendously.

It is his talent with digital art that made him stand out over other applicants. He believes that Mr. Shiff’s experience with technology is his most unique factor that he brings to the curriculum, and has a very modernized feel for his classes.

The biggest feature about his experience, however,  has been the shift from student to teacher. Mr. Lack said there’s “no way that it can’t,” impact his teaching, “he knows the environment, he just knows the community.”

Mr. Shiff occupies room 405 in HHS. Room 405 has always been well-known for being one of the art rooms that has a quiet vibe to it. He’s the tall art teacher with dark hair, usually formed into a ponytail, uniquely colored glasses, a strong smile, and an outfit that utilizes a deep understanding of color.

Mr. Shiff believes that the shift from student to teacher has been “really important.” It allows him to remember what it was like to be a student, and he always keeps it in his mind to understand how frustrating it can be to take a lot of information in at once, which has impacted his teaching directly.

When it comes to a general idea of where the art curriculum as a whole is going, he believes that “art teachers want to see it contemporary and modern.” However, when specifically asked about how he believes the art curriculum changes in HHS he said, “I don’t know.” The curriculum has changed so much, and he even laughed saying that it, “changes every term.”

He focused on the point that this is a college preparatory school, the curriculum focuses in on what colleges really seek in students. However, he did stress that his one of his goals is, “to push art digitally and grow the digital art department.”

A quote that Mr. Shiff says influences his teaching is, “if you’re not learning, your students are not learning.” As a new teacher, he’s continuously learning and understanding how to better his curriculum.

Junior, Justine Zaki, had Mr. Shiff as a teacher in term one, for Painting. Her first impression of Mr. Shiff was that he’s very nice and cares very much about art. When it comes to his style of teaching, she believes that it’s very organized and free. Students are given a lot of room for creativity.

Leeway in creativity is something that Mr. Shiff believes is a very important factor in his teaching. He called it a “case-by-case study,” saying that he wants every student to find some sort of appeal to the lesson.

However, that leeway brings difficulty, he said, noting that some students will find bends in the project’s guidelines to shortcut the assignment, whereas the struggles of the projects can be the biggest ways to reach enduring understanding.

Mr. Shiff stressed a strong passion for leaving his students inspired, by saying, “I guess my goal here is to encourage those students that perceive the world differently to seriously consider that an art college may be best suited to the way they perceive the world.”


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