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As a student of Mark Edwards (who will forever be Coach Edwards, in my mind), I’ve kept in touch with many fellow graduates of Edward’s class, like Zac. Zac is a close friend of mine and is an award-winning graphic designer. When I asked if he’d be interested in sharing a few words for an article on Mr. Edwards, he jumped at the chance. “His classes were the pinnacle of my high school experience. Mr. Edwards was the most integral influence in my decision to become a graphic designer. I even have my own screen and print at home, all of these years later.”
Mark Edwards stays with people in more ways than one– he remembers me, my family, my family friends, their new spouses and children, their jobs. He works on the community ground floor. Many of his students also use skills from his course as often as they might read, write, or type.
Some of my favorite high-school memories come from Edward’s class. The tactile experiences of spreading emulsion, squeegeeing syrupy ink through screens, and donning your first t-shirt born from hard work lead to many unforgettable memories.
Mark Edwards cultivates a desire to create in others. Once you’ve experienced one of his courses, it stays with you.
Q: How do you like to plan your units?
A: I’ve never taught the same course– or I’ve never taught the same course the same way because we’ll regularly change projects. All of our projects require the same skills, but there’s always a new themed twist to keep the way the students and I approach creating art fresh. I like including students in the process of choosing our projects, too.
Students often share videos or images of graphic designs that captivate them. From there, I can say, “Hey, let’s figure this sucker out together.” In that sense, students and I work together as partners to finish some new projects they’ve chosen that they have buy-in to complete as best they can.
Q: Are there any outstanding students or projects that you can recall and share?
A : There’s too many! One of the first students I had, Mike, was a troubled kid. Mike got into a fight with one of my students, the two were ready to go to blows. I had no idea who Mike was, but I stepped in to diffuse the situation. I pulled Mike aside, saying, “I will handle this– you might be right, he might be right, but as a teacher, I’m here to help get this figured out.”
Afterward, we became fast friends, and we’re still friends to this day. Mike became a tattoo artist out of high school, but quickly realized he didn’t like the lifestyle. He went to Stevens-Henager College and put himself through a graphic design program. Well, it turns out Mike got so good at graphic design that a friend from Marvel asked him to design tattoos for Hawkeye.
Every time I watch a Marvel movie, it reminds me of Mike. We’ve stayed in touch, and he’s now doing what I do– running an art program at his kid’s school, and he loves it.
Q: What are career paths available to students after your class? What is your hope for them after graduation?
A: The move towards higher education was a relatively stale track until now. Historically, you had to go through college to get a degree, and then you’d start work. Nowadays, if you know the programs and you’re a go-getter, you can find a job. Obviously, schooling is still a primary route, but you can go out and find work quickly with their acquired skills.
As for instilled values and hopes, problem-solving comes up naturally when working on designing, and I always offer creative choice. I want them to be perfectionists with their work– you wouldn’t give a family member or friend a t-shirt with inky finger smudges on it. You learn how to reprint and reprint until it looks good enough for the public, and through honing and reworking in your craft, you become a responsible or accountable person– that’s what I teach. It’s a lot of fun.