In the classroom and in the stained glass studio, On Track Academy senior Rachel Peterson directs, creates and transcends.
“She always has a gift for creativity and goes above and beyond,” said Peterson’s Summit Learning teacher Karli Kruiswyk.
Peterson came to OTA her first year as a member of her Twilight program. Before transferring to OTA, she was overwhelmed with anxiety and pressure to fit in at her previous school, she said.
“I was super quiet and shy,” Peterson said. “And this whole year, I’ve kind of opened up.”
After living through “four strange years” of continuous change and adjustment in the area of COVID-19, Peterson said his final year had been his 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 preferred creative method.
“I’ve always done art and creative things,” Peterson said.
Hypnotized by the medium, Peterson mastered studio skills creating a portfolio of imaginative stained glass projects. This spring, she had the opportunity to participate in a regional art exhibition 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 with two fairies because I was a bit inspired by Tinkerbell – I just love pastels and whimsical art,” Peterson said.
One of her favorite glass shapes, 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’s 101 regional art expo, Peterson received three accolades: a first place finish, the People’s Choice Award, and the Avista Award. Peterson was the first OTA student to participate in the art exhibit.
Peterson’s artwork was selected for recognition at the 49th Superintendent’s High School Art Show. As an award-winning work of art, “Innocent Rumination” will be displayed on a tour of several museums throughout the state, including the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
At OTA, Peterson is also involved with the Gender Sexuality Alliance and the eSports club. And, although currently in a trial phase, Peterson assists Erin Bangle, her OTA stained glass teacher, in teaching evening stained glass classes for adults.
“She’s a leader in my bedroom, and she’s mastered it,” Bangle said.
In the fall, Peterson will attend Whitworth University to study arts education as a member of its honors program. Her ideal career, she said, would be returning 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 tuition. Her family plans to set up a small shop on site and learn stained glass skills to help with orders, she said.
“If I could have a classroom full of Rachels – that’s a teacher’s dream,” Bangle said. “…We’re stupidly proud of her.”