Once a promising pediatrician, art teacher draws on her artistic talents to help students

New+Drawing+and+Painting+teacher+Vashtty+Lemus+guides+her+students+through+an+assignment+during+an+Aug.+26+class.+

Kristel Laceste

New Drawing and Painting teacher Vashtty Lemus guides her students through an assignment during an Aug. 26 class.

Minjeong Kim

When she entered California State University, Fullerton, in 2014, Vashtty Lemus dedicated herself to becoming a pediatrician because she loved science and wanted to help a lot of people.

The lifelong goal she set in Baldwin Park High School located in Baldwin Park, California would take a U-turn after she rekindled her passion for art during her junior year of college.

“I always wanted to become a doctor to help people,” Lemus said. “When I was doing the pre-med track, however, I realized that [the track] wasn’t really for me, and I wanted to help someone in a different way.”

She then reflected upon her childhood and reconsidered what she had enjoyed doing – art.

“I always enjoyed doing artwork in my free time [as] I tried to draw every time I had the free time to do so,” Lemus said. “I also entered art competitions at my schools even when I was too young to know what a competition was back then, just for fun.”

Lemus said she became motivated to draw after her first work of art, which she submitted in a school competition as a kindergartener, was chosen to be the best artwork and made the cover of the yearbook.

Although she could have pursued art as a hobby, she decided to change her major to art because she felt like just pursuing art as a hobby wasn’t enough and she wanted to give the same joy she felt to students.

“I wanted to help students develop their own skills,” Lemus said. “I also [wanted to] make them realize that there’s a lot of opportunities and different job descriptions that they could get into if they want to major in art.”

Lemus switched her major completely to Art Education in her junior year and graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education with a concentration in Drawing and Painting. After being assigned to become a student teacher at Sunny Hills in 2018, Lemus taught under Brian Wall and Preetha Mathen to teach 3-D Communication Design.

With her teaching credential from Cal State Fullerton and experience in student teaching, she taught Drawing and Painting at Sunny Hills as a summer school course in 2019 after finding a position in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District through a website called edjoin.org, a platform that individuals planning on becoming a teacher use to find open positions at nearby schools.

“I think Sunny Hills has a special place in my heart because I did my student teaching here, and I was met with nothing but positive staff members and students,” she said. “When the opportunity arose, I just decided to go for it.”

In 2021, she taught the summer course again after officially receiving the position of a Drawing and Painting teacher at Sunny Hills for periods 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

“When I heard that we were going to return back in person after going virtual the previous year, my concern was the students, and I wanted them to feel comfortable and feel at ease,” the art teacher said. “I wanted to make sure that they were OK from the transition, and I think it went well.”

Although senior Sebastian Ramos enrolled in the Drawing and Painting class primarily to fulfill the high school graduation requirement, he relates with his teacher’s goal of connecting with the students.

“Ms. Lemus really makes the classroom, as in without her, it would be a lot different,” Ramos said. “She always walks around and asks how we’re doing or about our interests; it is really cool, and I feel like she really wants to connect with us.

Junior Alejandra Quismorio appreciates her teacher’s positive attitude toward the students for it makes the class feel enjoyable and less like a burden.

“As someone who lacks any artistic skill, I came into the class nervous and with low expectations.” Quismorio said. “But Ms. Lemus has been very accommodating and encouraging toward us by emphasizing that this class is not about perfection but improvement.”

In her free time, Lemus enjoys traveling, drawing and painting. 

“Often when I have time, I would do small paintings or small drawings,” the teacher said. “I do a little bit of everything. When I paint, I mostly paint landscapes with watercolor, but when I draw, it’s purely what is in my imagination at that point.”

Ms. Lemus really makes the classroom, as in without her, it would be a lot different”

— senior Sebastian Ramos

Lemus said she is looking forward to her first year of officially teaching Drawing and Painting as a class, not just as a summer school course. She utilizes a variety of resources for the course, including textbooks, lectures, documentaries and activities such as physical projects.

“Another goal I have for this year would be just being able to see growth in my students, just like in summer school,” Lemus said. “I want to see that visual growth and allow the students to grow in their artistic skills and have them be happy with their own artwork.” 

Principal Allen Whitten believes that the new teacher’s two years of summer school teaching experience will help her to become a great teacher.

“She taught at Sunny Hills [the] entire summer so we’ve already seen her in action and she can do great things,” Whitten said.