The outdoors a big influence on Glenwood Springs High School art teacher |

The outdoors a big influence on Glenwood Springs High School art teacher

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler/Post IndependentGlenwood Springs High School art teacher Jack Niswanger works with a student inside of his classroom on a recent afternoon.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Jack Niswanger didn’t have much else to do growing up in the small town of Palmer Lake.

So he ended up turning to the outdoors. Things like hiking and fishing became a part of life. Years later the outdoors are still a part of his life in the form of drawings and paintings.

Niswanger has taught a wide range of art classes for about 17 years at Glenwood Springs High School. His own work often focuses on outdoor scenes.

“I consider myself a nature painter to some degree or a naturalist painter,” Niswanger said, pulling out a painting of two Longhorn sheep on a mountain ridge.

Niswanger has been teaching in one form or another since the mid-1970s. He worked for Colorado Mountain College and was one of the charter members of CMC’s outdoor education program in Eagle County. He’s taught backcountry skiing for more than 20 years but doesn’t do as much skiing himself anymore at 59.

“I’m kind of past my prime,” he said, with a grin.

At CMC, Niswanger designed a winter mountaineering and desert orientation program. It involved a 10-day trip skiing over 20 miles to the Grand Canyon and then hiking it.

He later came to enjoy teaching in the classroom rather than in places like the Grand Canyon.

Niswanger likes the interaction with students, and he has been known to play guitar on occasion in class.

“I like the kids ” that’s really what it’s all about,” Niswanger said.

It’s rewarding when he sees a former student around town 10 years later who’s happy to see him. He teaches with a style just firm enough to push his students to produce better work than they expected.

“Sometimes they think I’m a little cranky but a lot of what I’m about is trying to teach them a work ethic and to be productive,” he said.

He said he constantly works to improve his own art so he can be a better teacher.

Going into teaching wasn’t an option at the time of his college graduation “unless you wanted to move out to Nebraska,” Niswanger said. Teachers were holding onto jobs as the Vietnam War was winding down. So Niswanger worked for himself for a period of time and later for CMC before getting a traditional teaching job.

Niswanger graduated from Western State College in Gunnison with a degree in art education in the mid-1970s. The staff had connections with some of the original figures in the Taos, N.M., art scene. Their attention to stunning outdoor environments probably influenced his own work.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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