Erik Tosten says his journey to teaching was a process that unfolded over several years.
“[It] wasn’t at any one single moment just over the years, being in art school, being in grad school, wanting to be in the academic setting,” said Tosten.
Since August, Tosten has taught sculpture and ceramics in both the Middle and Upper School. He also teaches AP 3D Studio Art in the Upper School.
Tosten earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ceramics at the University of Iowa. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics at the University of North Texas.
After graduate school, Tosten taught drawing, sculpture and visual design at University of Texas Arlington for nine years. He also taught graduate courses and art workshops.
He continued his career as an educator at W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, teaching ceramics and drawing for eight years.
Over time, Tosten says he became interested in working at an independent school.
“Private school is a balance between teaching at a college level and public high school,” Tosten said.
He first heard of Greenhill through someone who had taught at the school. Tosten wanted to teach a combination of grades, and Greenhill gave him the opportunity to do that. He says he also likes how Greenhill has many materials for students to use.
“I also knew that in the 3D class, we were allowed more materials for students to use other than just clay,” Tosten said.
Head of Fine Arts Terry Martin says the arts education community in Dallas is relatively small, so job openings have a way of being spread through word of mouth.
Martin says his first impressions of Tosten were that he was personable, experienced, passionate about art and about teaching 3D art in particular. Through conversations with him, Martin says he learned that Tosten was a lifelong learner who always challenged himself and was looking to improve his art and ways of teaching and sharing his love of art with his students.
“He shared his desire to have a classroom/studio where the art student felt comfortable taking artistic risks, expressing themselves through their art, and teaching them how to look at art with a discerning eye,” Martin said in an email response to questions. “He shared how that kind of classroom process had been a factor in his artistic journey.”
After viewing Tosten’s portfolio of work, Martin says he “was able to see the level of his aesthetic taste and eye for detail in his work. I was excited about how Mr. Tosten would share that with our students here at Greenhill.”
Tosten says he has been impressed by Greenhill students.
“My first impression was how smart they are,” Tosten said. “They ask a lot of questions, they are engaged in their academics, they take their education seriously.”
Tosten is working to execute his vision of what his classes and studios might become.
“Right now, on a practical level, I’m trying to continue to get this studio built up,” Tosten said. “My goal for this year is to get the ceramics studio set up. I’d like to get some woodworking in here. I want to work with some glass.”
Tosten says he wants to make sure his students have the opportunity to work with a variety of materials.
“I’ve done ceramics a lot but I’ve also done woodworking at my home studio,” Tosten said.
One of his goals is to create a separate woodworking class, but that will require finding space on campus. For now, Tosten says woodworking will be a component of his classes.
Lillian Smith is currently enrolled in the Middle School ceramics course taught by Tosten. They are currently making symmetric and asymmetric mugs.
“I like it,” Smith said. “It’s a fun class because we get to work with clay. I like how he sets aside a time for listening and a time for working.”
Smith describes Tosten’s classroom presence as “high energy” and “very funny.” He also “explains things very thoroughly,” Smith said.
Savanna Smith is also in Middle School ceramics.
“He makes sure that we know the material, and that we know what we are working with,” Savanna Smith said.
Tosten described the teaching philosophy he brings to his Greenhill classes.
“I try to emphasize art-making, craftsmanship, composition, and concept, and why students are creating what they are creating,” Tosten said. “One of my main goals is problem-solving. Also understanding the relationship between thinking and making. I think in the digital age those skills are being lost and I think they are really important.”