Everybody Loves Mr. Clerk

Colton High School’s resident substitute is beloved for his kind spirit and artistic talent


J. Dollins

Mr. James Clerk is one of Colton High’s most celebrated figures. He has brought joy to the lives of the Colton Community through his role as a substitute teacher, and with his lovely graffiti art.

Say the name “Mr. Clerk” to anyone at Colton High School and their face lights up.

James Clerk is Colton’s resident substitute teacher, and unlike most teachers, who only have a maximum of 150 students a year, he gets to teach nearly everybody on campus. And he loves it.

Clerk’s claim to fame is his artwork. He draws peoples’ names in graffiti style, which has earned the appreciation of both students and staff.

Mr. Clerk meets members of the CHS Pepper Bough staff after interviewing for this profile. His smile is evident, even through this mask. (J. Dollins)

Mr. Clerk is 65-years old and has been a sub for 22 years, with no plans of retiring. He used to teach at multiple schools, until he decided to stay at one school. 

Thankfully, that school is Colton High. 

“Colton High School is my favorite,” Clerk said. “So I’m here all the time.”

Clerk chose to stay at Colton High because he loved the school, the staff, and the students. “They were all good to me and have respect towards me.”

He got into teaching because of his background. He took art classes in his home country of Ghana, West Africa. He attended art school, then came to the United States and started teaching at local schools.

Clerk started working in the Colton Joint Unified School District in 1989. He decided to remain a substitute because he loves meeting multiple people and uses art as an activity during the classes he teaches.

He continued to come to high schools because he loved teaching people new things and wanted to show them about graphics. He loves teaching teenagers. 

“I like showing people new things and showing them something that they might enjoy.”

I like showing people new things and showing them something that they might enjoy.

— Mr. James Clerk, CHS Substitute Teacher

If it wasn’t for a student of his, he would’ve never gotten into graffiti and would have never taken it as seriously as he does now. This student of his requested him to draw his name, and Clerk took on the challenge.

“Just to draw his name it took me a whole week,” Clerk said. “Now, to draw a simple name it takes me around 10 to 20 minutes.”

He went to art school and learned about graphics and design. He also learned to do graffiti by observing many things, like walls, internet images, even candy wrappers. “It’s something I’m passionate about,” he said.

In addition to creating name art for those at Colton High, Clerk also sells his art. He paints portraits and landscapes. 

He is very appreciated, and is considered one of the most kind-hearted people on Colton High’s campus. 

“Everyone loves him,” said Jeremiah Dollins, Colton High English teacher.