Jack of all trades

New art teacher from Killian balances teaching during a pandemic and creating art outside of school


Photo by Henry Hays

Art Teacher Caleb Jacks assists a student in his Art 3 Painting Class. This is Jacks’ first year teaching a medium-specific class, which he says he prefers over teaching a broad art class. “Knowing specific content like Drawing 2, Painting 2, 3 and 4; I love those,” Jacks said. “For seven years at Killian, it was tough to teach sculpture and ceramics when I didn’t have the passion behind it.”

As school doors open for the first time in six months, art teacher Caleb Jacks watches students flood the halls. He sees some familiar faces and thinks back to working at a middle school, when these now almost adults were just kids. While he misses the school he used to call home, he is excited to start the next chapter in his new classroom. 

Jacks started working as an art teacher at Hebron this year after working at Killian Middle School, a feeder school for Hebron, for seven years. He has loved working at Hebron and said the high school students allow him to be more specific when teaching. 

“I get to be really precise and stretch out certain techniques a little bit longer when it comes to drawing or painting,” Jacks said. “It’s a lot more focus on each thing, versus ‘Alright, this week we’re doing this in painting,’ in middle school and then you’re done. This time we can spend a lot of time building up and then they create these beautiful pieces of artwork.”

Jacks has been pursuing art throughout his childhood, and his struggle with dyslexia from a young age helped him discover his love for the subject. 

“My deal was retaining information,” Jacks said. “I needed pictures to help me understand the story, to comprehend it. For images, they help tell the story, so I then would create my own little stories. That’s why I love comics and illustrations today. I started at a young age [and] didn’t realize it would lead me to become a teacher one day.”

Art teacher Jennifer Russell first contacted Jacks about the opening. He had previously mentioned he would love to work at Hebron, so she had an idea he would be interested. 

“It was something that we had talked about before where he was like ‘Man, I love Hebron, I would love to be at a school like this,’” Russell said. “I’d rather it be somebody that we know, that knows LISD kids and that knows Hebron and how they are. He’s just seen what our kids can do, and some of those kids he’s taught. It was kind of a mutual thing; I definitely sought him out, but he was looking to move up here.”

A commission piece done by Jacks. This detailed drawing of Pistol Pete was a gift from a wife to her husband, an OSU fan. (Photo via calebjacks.com)

One of the things that sets Jacks apart is his love for art outside of the classroom. He has a website where he takes commissions and posts work he has done, such as murals for gyms, grocery stores and churches all over the Dallas area. He also does personalized portraits of families, siblings and pets. A chalk drawing of his was even featured in DHome Magazine in 2016. 

“He’s just an awesome artist,” Russell said. “He’s a mural artist and he also does commission work in the true visual art sense, like he does drawing and painting. I definitely wanted someone that could add something like that to the team so it could just enhance the overall experience. And so the kids could see that you could be a working artist and not be starving; like you can have a real life and that it’s something cool.”

Jacks’ students notice he is passionate about his job; he shares his artwork with the class and is always painting or drawing with the students. 

“He has Instagram [accounts] too, which are really cool,” Art 2 Student Jordan Ricker said. “He shares his Instagram with the class and has a class Instagram [account]. He posts a lot of his students’ work and he is constantly doing some sort of project and educating himself, which is awesome.”

Jacks knew he would be moving to Hebron in May, having to tackle the challenges the pandemic brought. 

“I knew that there would be an issue with the next year,” Jacks said. “Would it stay virtual? Would it be in person? Whatever challenge threw my way, I was going to go 100% into it. I was ready for the challenge. I’ve always wanted to work at the high school level and work at Hebron. It just so happened to work out great.”

Some of the COVID-19 safety precautions for art class include students having their own supplies, being spread out across the classroom and wiping down the desks and the few supplies students do share. Jacks wipes down everything as soon as students are done with it and is very precise about cleaning since students use so many supplies in art class. 

“He’s doing tons of [safety precautions],” Ricker said. “I think he’s trying to be super cautious because if he is doing something wrong and a supervisor sees, then art could just get canceled. Everything has to be cleaned, which you would expect, but it’s a lot more [cleaning] than you would think about.”

Jacks says he believes art is important to every aspect of our lives, and although he could be a full-time artist, Jacks loves interacting with and teaching students. 

“I do love it,” Jacks said. “I love to see other artists grow, or just students enjoy it, and see how relative it is in all aspects of careers. I mean everything that we wear is designed by artists. Everything you drive, you write with, you walk into: structure is designed by an artist, so it has to come from somewhere.”