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News >  K-12 education

‘A teacher’s dream’: On Track Academy’s Rachel Peterson harnesses ‘Innocent Rumination’ into new passion

June 4, 2022 Updated Tue., June 7, 2022 at 5:20 p.m.

By Natalie Rieth For The Spokesman-Review

In both the classroom and the stained-glass studio, On Track Academy senior Rachel Peterson leads, creates and transcends.

“She always has a knack for creativity and going above and beyond,” said Karli Kruiswyk, Peterson’s Summit Learning teacher.

Peterson came to OTA her freshman year as a member of its Twilight program. Before transferring to OTA, she was overwhelmed by anxiety and the pressure of fitting in at her previous school, she said.

“I was super quiet and shy,” Peterson said. “And that whole year I kind of opened up.”

After experiencing “a weird four years” of continual change and adjustment in the sphere of COVID-19, Peterson said her senior year has been her best yet. In September, OTA introduced a new stained-glass elective, a class that changed everything for Peterson.

Peterson sews, draws, paints and sculpts polymer clay, but despite her recent introduction to the medium last September, stained glass is her favorite method of creating.

“I’ve always been doing art and creative things,” Peterson said.

Mesmerized by the medium, Peterson has mastered workshop skills by creating a portfolio of imaginative stained-glass projects. This spring, she had the opportunity to compete in a regional art show with her panel titled “Innocent Rumination,” her longest and most ambitious piece, she said. The process of designing, cutting, painting, assembling glass with lead, glazing and cementing the piece took about a month.

“I started off with two fairies because I was kind of inspired by Tinkerbell – I just like pastels and whimsical art,” Peterson said.

One of her favorite glass forms, iridescent glass, is fused throughout the panel, which features a pastel-colored scene of fairies and mushrooms.

A month after submitting a time-lapse video of “Innocent Rumination” to the NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101 Regional Art Show, Peterson was awarded three accolades: a first-place title, the People’s Choice award and the Avista award. Peterson was the first OTA student to compete in the art show.

Peterson’s artwork has been selected to receive recognition at the 49th annual Superintendent’s High School Art Show. As an award-winning work of art, “Innocent Rumination” will be displayed on a tour of multiple museums statewide, including Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.

At OTA, Peterson is also involved in Gender Sexuality Alliance and the eSports club. And, though currently in a trial stage, Peterson assists Erin Bangle, her stained-glass teacher at OTA, in teaching stained-glass night class for adults.

“She’s a leader in my room, and she’s mastered it,” Bangle said.

In the fall, Peterson will attend Whitworth University to study art education as a member of its honors program. Her ideal career, she said, would be to return to OTA as an art teacher.

Inspired by Bangle and her daughter, Peterson is determined to start her own stained-glass business to pay for college expenses. Her family plans to set up a small in-house shop and learn stained-glass skills to help with commissions, she said.

“If I could have a classroom full of Rachels – that’s a teacher’s dream,” Bangle said. “… We’re stupid proud of her.”

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