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Pottery partnership produces bowls of fun

Local artist and substitute teacher Steve Zalusky says he had great fun helping special-education students at the high school do a pottery project. Left to right: Josh Baier and Steve Zalusky. Submitted photos (see more in this week's River Falls Journal)

"That was really exciting when it came out of the kiln and they saw what color it was," said special education teacher at the high school CeCe Gillis about pottery bowls her students made.

She and the class of nine kids recently finished making pottery from scratch, which the young people ended up presenting to their moms for Mother's Day. Former art teacher Steve Zalusky helped.

Zalusky taught in the district for 33 years and retired in 2001, but still substitutes at the high school.

He and Gillis began last fall discussing a potential pottery project for the special education students.

She looks for projects and activities that will engage her students kids. He has the pottery expertise to plan and help with a pottery project.

Zalusky says he gave a lot of thought to what kind of project would work for the kids, all of whom have a different abilities.

"It was a blast to watch the kids," he said. "They were so focused."

"A wheel project wouldn't have allowed the kids to have a hands-on experience," said Gillis.

Zalusky -- a lifelong artist skilled in photography, jewelry making, pottery, tile, clay and other works -- thought the "old school" method of using a wooden frame mold to shape the pottery might work for the special-ed class.

"I built a trial mold," he said.

Seeing it would work, the next step was finding the materials and means to get done the things the kids could not -- like firing the bowls in a kiln.

Zalusky says a casual talk with technical education teacher Paul Haugland easily led to a source for the dozen or so wooden frames the class would need. Haugland found wood scraps suitable for the molds.

Zalusky built molds from the wood that wouldn't have been used otherwise.

Gillis said just as easily, art teacher Robin Kelley donated leftover clay and figured out how to work in kiln time for the pottery project.

Read more about Steve Zalusky, the special-ed class and his pottery project in this week's River Falls Journal.