Teacher uses cartoons to make eighth grade English fun
EPHRAIM—Steve Weller teaches English to eighth graders at Ephraim Middle School, and it’s a job he loves to have fun with.
While he admits it can be a difficult age to teach, given all that the kids are dealing with, “my professional goal is to make sure middle school is not the worst three years of their lives. It doesn’t have to be,” he said.
To that end, Weller shares his talents with his students. One, in particular, has garnered quite a following. Every day after school he draws a comic strip on his classroom whiteboard for his students to see the next day. He’s been doing it since he started teaching nine years ago. “I love seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces when they come in. In about 9-10 seconds they read it, chuckle and sit down,” he said.
There’s even a group of kids that come in before school just to see the newest cartoon Weller has drawn. Principal Tim Miller is a fan too. He comes by regularly to get a chuckle, says Weller.
Weller’s cartoons focus on what he knows: education. The main character, Jimmy, is a kid who is always looking for ways to get out of doing work. Jimmy’s best friend is Steve, a “smart, friendly, supportive” type who bears more than a passing resemblance to his creator.
The most important thing you have to do to be a good cartoonist is to be funny, Weller said.
“The art, it’s negligible,” he said, “but the humor has to be there.”
For the last four years, Weller has posted his cartoons on Instagram:scootahsteve. At press time, he had 2,756 followers. For the last two years he has redrawn the cartoons and put them into two books, “Skool Rulz” and “Middle School Stinks” which he has self-published. (Both are available on Amazon.)
This labor of love grew out of a lifetime desire to be a comic book artist. As a “little, little kid” that was his dream. Weller said he would draw Calvin and Hobbs and Spiderman all the time. When real life intruded on his dream, Weller enrolled at Snow College as a freshman art student. But he quickly realized that if he taught art, it wouldn’t be as much fun, he said, so he switched majors.
While at Snow, Weller spent two years publishing his cartoons in the college newspaper. After graduating from Snow, Weller and his wife Kristen headed to Utah State University (USU) to complete their education. While he was at USU, the Utah Statesman ran Weller’s cartoons three times a week. They also appeared weekly in the Herald Journal for a few years.
Although Steve grew up in West Jordan, he and Kristen fell in love with the Ephraim area when they came here to attend school. So, after graduation, they looked for work in the Sanpete area. Steve was quickly hired to teach English at Ephraim Middle School, and he has been there ever since.
These days Kristen is busy at home taking care of their five children, Josh, 8, Abby 6, Lizzie 4, and Jackson and Jordan, almost 18 months.
“The Ephraim area is great for raising a family,” Weller said. “It’s a good community. Having grown up in Salt Lake, I’m done with that area.”
Along with his cartoons, Weller has done several murals you may have seen around the Ephraim area including Snow Cap Lanes, the SouthTowne movie theater, Snow College basketball gym, Kate’s Skates, Sip It and KZS shack, Manti Elementary and, of course, Ephraim Middle School.
His dream of being a comic book artist has mostly been put on the back burner. He’s just too busy, he said. But someday Weller says he would love to take it to the next level.
“If only someone else could do the leg work. I’m just super, super busy,” he said. “Right now I’m content with what I’m doing—making students laugh.”