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Faculty Feature: Mr. Mark Aeschliman

Faculty Features: Mark Aeschliman

Shu Ye ’18 interviewed veteran Architecture & Design and Art History Teacher Mr. Mark Aeschliman, who has degrees in English, Fine Art, Art History, Italian Language & Literature, and Architectural History. Mr. Aeschliman has been at TASIS since 1979 and was the School's second Khan-Page Master Teacher Award recipient in 2010.

When did you start at TASIS, what classes do you teach, and what else are you involved with at TASIS?
I started my career at TASIS in January of 1979. There was an unexpected opening because two teachers left at Christmas and did not come back, and they happened to be teachers of things I was qualified to teach. I’ve been here ever since, with a couple of years away and a half-year sabbatical.

I teach Architecture & Design and Art History. I have been a part of the Senior Humanities Program in recent years as well.

Can you please describe your educational background and your career in education prior to TASIS?
I have undergraduate degrees in English, Fine Art, and Art History—a triple major from the University of Vermont. I have master’s degrees in Italian Language & Literature and Art History from Middlebury College and Syracuse University. I also have all but the dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania in Architectural History, but I went back to TASIS before finishing the Ph.D.

My career in education prior to TASIS consisted of teaching English in Naples, where I lived briefly before I came to TASIS, but I’ve been here for my entire career from the age of 24.

Can you briefly describe your teaching philosophy?
I am a great admirer of Louis Kahn, who was a great teacher of architecture. He said, “You don’t teach a class, you teach a student.” Following his guidance, I try to tailor my assignments to each of my students while at the same time basing them on the principles of the IB curriculum.

I think my greatest strength is my ability to establish an atmosphere of trust with the students and find a way to bring the best out of them.

I also believe that art history is the Trojan Horse without its violent aspect. Looking from the outside, it is just a wooden horse; however, inside the horse there are Greek soldiers who have powers to destroy Troy. The surface of art history is all these masterpieces and historical contexts, but if you observe from inside, there is more going on than just visual art. Arts are a great reflection of the society as a whole—its moral values, philosophy, and even politics and economy. I want my students to look into the depth of environing conditions.

What do you like most about working at TASIS?
I find TASIS to be a very stimulating environment because I’ve typically had very motivated students through the years. I get to teach things that are especially important to me and stimulate me personally. As an artist, I have had some shows of my own. Teaching these two subjects is a good feeder for my own work. I am enjoying the curriculum that I teach: AP Art History, IB Art History and Visual Art, and regular-leveled architecture. And at TASIS I have the opportunity to lead Academic Travel trips to places that are relevant to the teaching.

What would you say has been your greatest success at TASIS?
My greatest success at TASIS has been to build relationships with the students who trust me. I think my greatest strength is my ability to establish an atmosphere of trust with the students and find a way to bring the best out of them. I have had a certain amount of success with that over the years.

Is there anything you want to achieve at TASIS in 2017?
Well, we’re getting kind of late in this school year. But as time goes by, I am more and more interested in the idea of a study guide to Roman and Renaissance art and architecture. I am not going to write a book because there are plenty of books written out there. It will be a text that facilitates the course for my students, especially those who enroll in IB Art History. This course is very challenging because it involves a lot of complicated writing, so I am thinking about bringing materials together that will form a textbook or a study guide for them. I’d like to do that this year.

Could you please recommend a book you have your students read?
There is a very good book called Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King. Next week I am going to Florence with IB students for Academic Travel, and we are actually going to climb this dome. It will be useful for my students to read this book for this trip and the course as a whole.

There are plenty of books that are very good. There is one that students should read that has to do with Ticino because I think a lot of TASIS students are not especially knowledgeable about this place we live in. It’s a really good short book by Max Frisch called Man in the Holocene. It’s the story of an old man who is losing his mind, and he is in the rainstorm here in Ticino. It is absolutely filled with information about the region we live in—the mountains, the trees, the dinosaurs, the glaciers, the Romans, and all kinds of things that are very stimulating to know because we are constantly faced with geological time. Every time you look out the window, you see those mountains, and they remind you how old the earth is, how young we people are, and what a short time we all have to live.

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