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It's the answer to every teacher's dream -- students hooked on learning. Such is Zina Poliszuk's group of 12 drawing and painting students. Most rarely miss a class, and they always ask for homework.

Allof the students are ages 65 to 81.

"It's a challenge because I have to keep coming up with more projects," Poliszuk said.

For Hazel Templeton, of Hammond Village, theclasses have revived old memories. The 69-year-old had never taken an art class before Poliszuk's, but she vividly recalls the encouragement she received as a child from her brother, an artist who urged herto paint.

"I was 10 years old when my brother got married, and that's when my art stopped," she said. Templeton married and raised a family. It wasn't until last year -- 57 years later -- that she pickedup a paintbrush again.

"I don't want a teacher who teaches what they paint," Templeton said. "I want someone who can bring the 'me' out from my work. It's such a joy that I found a teacher who is able todo that."

"This is my third session with Zina, and I'm loving it," she said.

The classes, sponsored by Howard Community College andthe county Department of Recreation and Parks, are geared to beginning and advanced students and include elements such as contour, tones and highlights, design, and drawing and painting.

When Poliszuk was asked if she would be interested in teaching an art class for seniors, she hesitated.

"I knew I could relate to young adults and children," said Poliszuk, who teaches an art history course at HCC and isthe mother of a 15-year-old son.

Once the seniors class began, however, Poliszuk learned as well.

"I didn't expect these people to have such energy and a desire to learn, and I thought, 'God, I hope that I will have these same attitudes,' " she said.

The class is a mix of students: Some have art backgrounds, others have never paintedbefore. One student paints despite her arthritis.

"Sometimes she will say she can't paint because her knuckles are swollen," Poliszuk said. "She won't stay home when she is in pain; during those times, she will learn by watching the other students paint and listening to their critiques."

One thing is evident -- all are open to new ideasand are excited about learning, Poliszuk said.

"Some people may think that these are fun and hobby types of courses," Poliszuk said. "I believe that it (drawing and painting) is not fun unless the students are good at it."

Proficiency is what the students strivefor when they assemble every Wednesday afternoon in the community hall of the Longwood Apartments in Columbia.

Paying close attention to the students' drawings and paintings displayed across the front of a piano, Poliszuk assesses each work during the first hour of class.

"It's a lovely painting. I like the colors," says Poliszuk, motioning toward a painting of a glass of wine and a plate of strawberries. Students join in the criticism.

"I like the color of the wine," said one. After discussing the positive elements of the painting, Poliszuk points out ways the artist can improve.

The silverware needs more black, for example, and "the glass won't look like glass unless you putthe darks into it," she says. After about five minutes, she moves onto the next painting.

"When I first started the class, I felt nervous and believed that I couldn't possibly draw," said 80-year-old Mary Gordon, a two-year veteran of the class. Now the Columbia residentproudly shows off her work.

She recently suffered an allergic reaction to oil paints, but she expects to continue her work, perhaps switching to watercolors.

"As long as you do something, you forget about things like age. I love this class more than anything," Gordon said.

"It's marvelous how you can get lost in your art," said BettyJo Hughes, 69. "You forget everything else."

Applying Poliszuk's suggestions to her work, Hughes worked to create shadows on her painting of a pair of boots that were positioned on horseshoes.

She says she chose this subject because "I love these boots. I bought them four years ago and then broke my ankle and was operated on four times.I will probably never wear the boots again, so I am preserving them."

Even Poliszuk's mother, who dabbled in painting only to tear up her work after seeing her daughter's paintings, enrolled in the classand is starting anew. Rose Andresini, 65, of Ellicott City, says simply, "I've always wanted to take art."

Dorothy Fair, an 81-year-old Columbia resident, holds bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts from William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., and has taken sculpture classes at Howard Community College.

However, she was unsure of her ability to draw prior to enrolling in the class.

"I didn't know I could draw until I started. It's wonderful therapy," she said.

Fair, a former teacher, never pursued painting before enrolling in the class.

"I lose myself completely when I am painting," she said. "I will cancel anything else before I would give up my art class."

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