Back at home in Japan, Yui Hirata doesn’t get much time in class to devote to painting and drawing.
“My school doesn’t have an art class,” she said.
But as an exchange student at Rogers High School, the sophomore got the chance to explore the arts in class — and was recognized for her work.
Hirata left her home in Tokyo, Japan in July 2016 to stay with a family in Puyallup and attend high school. In her first few weeks of enrollment, she already found some differences between schools in America and Japan.
At her school back home, Hirata said students would often be taught by one teacher.
“We change classrooms here,” she said. “We don’t change classrooms (in Tokyo).”
She also found she could pick and choose what classes she wanted to take. With a longtime interest in drawing, she enrolled in Drawing 1 & 2, taught by Sue Cole.
“She’s my favorite teacher,” Hirata said.
Cole, who’s taught in the district for nine years and has been a teacher for more than 30, said she has about one exchange student in her classes per year. Hirata’s art caught her attention.
“She has successfully mastered every technique,” Cole said. “She’s real sensitive to colors, shading and blending.”
She has successfully mastered every technique. She’s real sensitive to colors, shading and blending.
Sue Cole, teacher at Rogers High School
Cole teaches design, drawing and painting classes. In Hirata’s class, students learn techniques from water color to oil pastels. Hirata said he likes painting animals, like frogs, and nature.
It was Hirata’s oil pastel painting of a natural landscape that won her the 2-D Superintendent’s Award at the 2017 Vesey-Munson Art Show on May 24. The show, started 19 years ago in honor of Puyallup teachers Dan Vesey and Deb Munson, recognizes student artists across the district.
Cole submitted five student pieces to the show, including Hirata’s. It was the second time Hirata had ever used oil pastels.
“I was so surprised,” Hirata said when she found she’d won. “I didn’t expect it.”
“I was really proud of her,” added Cole. “I think I have the best job in the world — I get to help kids make art every day.”
At the art show, Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans told Hirata that her piece caught his eye.
“I walked through the whole art exhibit and I saw that one and I said, ‘That’s the one we need,’” he said.
Hirata returns to Japan this month, and while she doesn’t plan to study art, she wants to continue practicing.
“I like painting as my hobby,” she said. “I learned a lot of techniques.”