Mr. McDermott uses his artistic talents to help aspiring artists at RM


Christine Zhu

It is certainly wonderful for a person to take their lifelong hobby and turn it into a career. It is even better for them to be able to help others while doing what they love. Art teacher Michael McDermott is an example of that.

Mr. McDermott’s love of art first surfaced when he was a young child. “[I’ve have been working with art] ever since I grabbed a pencil. When I grabbed a crayon, I clutched it and made marks,” he explained. Many small children draw at a young age, but few are able to make it their profession later on in life.

As a college student, Mr. McDermott was able to win the Star Foundation art award at the Society of Illustrators in New York. “It was a really competitive scholarship,” he recalled of one of his proudest moments as an artist. Prestigious awards such as this are given to winners who are picked from a panel of judges.

Being good at something is one thing, but being able to teach it is another. Mr. McDermott chuckled while describing his motivation to become a teacher: “It was a financial thing. I needed a job, and I thought that this was a pretty solid, steady job, so that’s why I did it. I went back and got a teaching degree… This is actually a pretty good job.”

As Mr. McDermott found out, there are more benefits to teaching than just a solid, steady income. “Dealing with the kids everyday… I can remember one kid we had here who was really a bad kid in this school. He tore it up terribly. He loved to draw and he was good at it,” Mr. McDermott recalled, describing his most memorable experience with teaching art. “Just watching him everyday, in Drawing and Design class, come in here, not cause any trouble, be a total plus, show the best and utmost example of good citizenship and just watching him thrive.”

“This class—or art—for him it was like a safe haven. It was like his salvation, and being part of that and experiencing that with that particular student—I don’t know where he is today, but it was like, wow, he’s got a lot of good in him,” Mr. McDermott continued. Mr. McDermott was able to provide the student with the support and resources that the student needed to thrive, and in return, watched the student excel while doing something they both loved.

Freshman Elizabeth Mao elaborated on Mr. McDermott’s support in helping her move closer to her goals as an artist. “He has introduced me to more styles of art and has helped me to improve my artistic skills,” she reflected. “He demonstrates the art and helps us individually.”

Like all other things, art has its difficulties. “The making of art is so hard and impossible… Getting started, not being tired when you’re creating, trying to outdo your best, trying to outdo the competition’s best, trying to come up with something new, trying to do the impossible,” Mr. McDermott described. “I’m always happy to try to finish something and move on.”
Both experienced and amateur aspiring artists have specific goals that they work towards, and the teachers who support them and help them move closer to their goals are often underappreciated. Art is an incredible hobby to have, but being able to make a career out of it and help others in their paths as artists is even better.