David Acheson

There are no erasers in David Acheson's classroom.

The Country School art teacher cuts them off because, he says, working without erasers can help young artists express themselves.

"I just tear them off," David says. "Children become perfectionists when they're not ready to be. That's okay sometimes, but not when you're drawing. That line you're about to erase may be useful five minutes from now...You short-circuit the whole process by taking away those lines."

With bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts from Yale University, David is a professional sculptor who taught at Choate Rosemary Hall earlier in his career.

Now approaching the close of his 20th year at The Country School (TCS), David says two decades at the Madison school "was easy. I don't think of it as an achievement…I love what I do. I never dreamt it could be so fulfilling."

That may be because David's classroom is an easy place to be, where the pencils have no erasers and students are free to color outside the proverbial lines.

"I give them permission to make mistakes," says David, who arrived at TCS in the fall of 1991. "I am not opposed to letting people make a terrible error, but I'm there to pick up the pieces and to make sure they get something out of that mistake, so that it's not a bad day and they don't walk away thinking they failed. They didn't fail at all. They just learned something."

With a lighthearted approach that has David chuckling at the memory of allowing a student to take apart his stapler, which never worked again, and unorthodox assignments that include tearing up the masterworks, David says the means is sometimes more important than the end.

"What we do in here is not about product. I'm more interested in a child understanding what creating is all about. It's about the process and not getting in the way of that as it happens," he says.

Courtesy of The Day