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Jason Ratcliff, the art teacher at Rowan County High School, works with senior Georgia Means on a pottery wheel. "When I got my hands on clay I couldn't turn back" says Ratcliff, who has worked with several media.

The art of mentoring

story by Nic Huey

As the lunch bell rings at Rowan County High School, students file out of their classrooms and head toward the cafeteria. Some students, however, swim against the current in the hallways – they’re headed to Jason Ratcliff’s art classroom.

Students sit at tables working on their pieces; they’d rather be there than in the cafeteria. They enjoy conversation with their teacher. Georgia Means is one of them. 

"We can sit here and talk all day," Georgia says while working on a clay mug. "It's a good break during the day." 

Jason has been teaching art at Rowan County since 2010, after working as an independent artist and in HVAC. He is a staple in the arts community in Morehead, with murals and commissioned pieces scattered around town. 

Raised by an artist father, Jason has been surrounded by art since birth, and he has explored many mediums.

“My dad told me not to bother with a teaching certificate,” Jason says. But he developed a love for teaching that helps to feed his own creative energy.

Many of Jason's students enjoy learning from his wealth of knowledge and expertise.

"You'll be trying to do something for like 10 minutes, and when you ask for help," Charlie Whelan says, "Mr. Ratcliff can come over and show you in 10 seconds."

Jamie Knight is another student who can often be found in Jason's classroom.

"He's just a good person," Jamie says. "He don't ever have anything bad to say."

As the bell rings, signaling the end of lunch, students plead to stay for a few more minutes, but eventually file out of Mr. Ratcliff's classroom and back into the hallways, headed to their next class.

 

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Jason works with senior Georgia Means at a pottery wheel. "[Jason and I] can sit here and talk all day, she says. "It's a good break during the day."

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Jason dips his brush in gold paint while painting a portrait of his son, Landon. He uses his downtime in the classroom to work on his personal artwork.

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Paint is spattered on scales in Jason's classroom. The scales are used to weigh clay.

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A paintbrush lies in the classroom sink. Jason's classes work with paint, clay and other media to create.

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Jason instructs his students on the painting of a snowplow for the city, which will be put to use this winter. He incorperates a lot of community projects into his classroom curriculum.

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Jason applies grout sealer to a statue in front of school that had started to crack from weather exposure. After a tree was removed last year, Jason and his students were commissioned to create the Viking statue that now stands in the spot. The glass mosaic pieces that cover the statue of the school's mascott were hand-cut and individually placed by the students.

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Jason smiles across the room at one of his students. "[Jason] is just a good person" student Jamie Knight says. "He don't ever have anything bad to say."

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