Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pottery Goes Multicultural; Orange Park Teacher Livens Up Classroom

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pottery Goes Multicultural; Orange Park Teacher Livens Up Classroom

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

Shay Egerton said when she enrolled in her first elective ceramics class, she figured she'd make an ash tray -- not re-create the Taj Mahal.

Shay is one of about 140 students sculpting miniature replicas of famous buildings for Maristela Miller, a well-traveled, high-energy art teacher at Orange Park High who brings multicultural experiences to her classroom.

"Ash trays, no no. We are going to change what pottery is all about," said Miller, who was born and raised in Brazil and speaks with a Portuguese accent. "Everything I do is multicultural because I have been all over the world."

Miller came to the United State in 1989 with a master's degree in business and accounting.

"I decided, 'Who cares about money and accounting?' I love art," said Miller, who speaks and moves quickly.

In three years, she learned to speak English and graduated at the top of her class at the University of Maine with a master's degree in art. She and her husband lived in Asia for four years and have visited 40 countries.

Miller started her teaching career last year at Orange Park High.

Her class recently resembled a restaurant with Mexican music playing on a CD player. Photographs of Miller standing in front of many of the famous buildings lined the bulletin board.

She has four students from Haiti and one from Mexico. She encourages them to bring in CDs of their native music to play during class.

Miller had her students choose and research a famous architectural structure such as the Eiffel Tower or the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Parthenon of ancient Greece or the Arch of Constantine in Italy.

Students were to create a thumbnail sketch of the building and, using rulers and proportion, to design a replica. Plus, they must write a report on the structure, including how and when it was built, what building materials were used and the current status of the structure.

In class recently, Shay studied a photograph of the Taj Mahal in India as she formed windows in her clay with plastic gloves.

"I thought we'd be playing with Play Doh. …

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