A journey from farm kid to art teacher – Madison Catholic Herald

Winford Hunter
A journey from farm kid to art teacher – Madison Catholic Herald
Courtney Jablonski, second from right, with some of her art students at St. Maria Goretti School in Madison. (Contributed photo)

I grew up just outside of Ellsworth, Wis., during the 1980s on a family farm which served as the foundation for my faith, family, and creativity.

As a farm family, we were often called to find God in ordinary and everyday occurrences: a golden field during harvest season, playing in the cold creek bottoms on a hot summer day after working together in the fields, or gazing at the trees laced with ice during frosty cold winters.

As a family, we prayed and worked together to maintain the farm and our animals, each doing our part to ensure that the farm could provide for us.

Our small rural church held special memories for me of Sunday mornings that were sacred and the earliest foundation of my faith.

The Prayer of St. Francis was imprinted on my heart as a reminder to sow love, seek peace, offer consolation, and forgive.

As a young girl, I began riding and showing quarter horses along with my older sister Gina. Riding my horse allowed me to witness the trust and bond needed to command a powerful animal.

This level of trust is akin to the trust we should always seek in God and the unbreakable bond He has with us.

I loved working with my horse in the quiet of the evening while the sun stretched out over the hay fields.

Afterward, I would loosen the reins allowing him to freely trail run through the old logging trails and fields of our farm. Our farm was located above bluffs and cliffs that overlooked the creek bottoms.

When I was allowed to run free, my dogs and I would seek out the quiet and beauty of the woods, rivers, and streams.

I often became lost within my own imagination, creating tree forts, stick and leaf arrangements, and witnessing the beauty of nature that constantly surrounded me.

It was in this quiet world of the woods that I realized God’s patience and guidance as I pursued my creative endeavors.

Those experiences make Adoration so special to me today as an adult; they gave me the thirst to be surrounded by peace and stillness in the presence of Christ.

Wisdom of my first art teacher

I began to take drawing lessons when I was in the fourth grade. A small group of us would gather at the home of Stella Morrison, a respected artist in our community and a person of strong faith who incorporated her love of God in her art lessons.

She taught us how to render and draw, but also how to love and respect one another. She always reminded us that nothing can be perfect, only God is perfect. She brought God into our lessons, modeling a disposition for me to turn to Him when I would have doubts.

I recall seeking His counsel in my college years with very simple prayers, “Lord, is this what you want me to do?”

I hear His answer daily in my classes with the joy I feel as I seek ways for my students to gain confidence while creating their art and the gift of seeing how God works through and in every person — that each of us has immense value and purpose.

Teaching art, seeing God’s hidden beauty

It is the lessons I learned from the farm and my wandering days as a child that sought beauty in the ordinary.

It is often in the unseen where God reveals some of the most beautiful lessons.

As an art teacher at St. Maria Goretti (SMG) School in Madison, I strive to provide my students with opportunities to explore art ideas and art media, and solve problems.

Students are naturally curious. I want them to experience the freedom to create and explore the many avenues that God has provided and in this way to see the beauty, creativity, and grace of God in the ordinary.

I also love to display student artwork throughout our school in a way that uniquely utilizes the space, explores multiple genres of art, explores the diversity of other cultures through the lens of our Catholic identity, and showcases student achievement while bringing forth joy and a sense of school unity.

We are a family joined by faith, but the arts have a unique role in connecting us all.

Cherishing the gift of life as an adopted child

Sometimes I am overcome with gratitude for the generosity and courage of my birth mother who chose to give me my life.

Being an adopted child has been an identity of great blessing for me, for I knew from a very young age God’s profound love for me and that He had given me the most wonderful parents.

It has shaped my perspective on motherhood, especially in assisting other mothers in need.

This led me to work with Babies and Beyond of WI (formerly Pregnancy Helpline) as a phone volunteer for women needing support or counseling during crisis pregnancies. These pregnancy centers offered my birth mother the same care, support, and love which provided my opportunity for life.

It is this unconditional compassion for mothers and their babies that revealed to me the unconditional love of our God as well as the grace and guidance of the Virgin Mary.

Vocation of motherhood

My husband and I are blessed with four inquisitive children who all attend SMG School: Joachim (seventh grade), Augustine (fifth grade), Kierian (second grade), and Azélie (pre-K).

We have been members of the SMG family since 2012.

As a parent, and now as a teacher, I have seen firsthand the commitment of SMG teachers.

Our kids have had a wonderful experience, both in academics and faith, thanks to the dedication of all the teachers that have nurtured and taught our children.

As a mother, which is my first vocation before God, I have peace knowing that my children will leave here with a sound foundation in the Truth of Jesus Christ Our Savior, and learn to treasure the endless beauty of the Catholic faith.

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