WASHINGTON — Jack Clifford is a Jack of all trades, it seems.
He's an art teacher at Washington Community High School. He's the diving coach for the school's boys and girls swimming and diving teams.
He's a teacher at the Art at the Bodega studio in Washington and helps in the business's day-to-day operations.
And he's an illustrator for children's books published by an international company that are written mainly to help Asian children learn English. The books are available online worldwide through Amazon.com.
Apparently, Clifford, a 30-year-old Rantoul native, isn't spreading himself too thin. His bosses and colleagues speak highly of him.
"Is Jack popular with our customers? You have no idea," said Art at the Bodega co-owner Tricia Yocum. "Our customers love Jack. He's so much fun. And he's a worker bee."
Jayme Banzhoff, Clifford's mentor teacher at Washington high school, said Clifford has been a great addition to the art department and the high school staff in his first year there.
"His school spirit is contagious," she said.
Clifford is providing his high school students with real-world experience by including them in his creative process for the children's books.
"My students have given me some excellent feedback," he said.
A new digital illustration class taught by Clifford will be added to the art department's offerings next school year.
"That's exciting for our department because Jack's experience with illustration will give students more college readiness for where technology has impacted the arts," Banzhoff said.
Clifford's illustrating gig with the Read With You Center for Language Research and Development, which began in 2016 after he saw a social media post and submitted a resume and portfolio, has so far resulted in him doing illustrations for 10 children's books with two more in the works.
"I plan to finish those two books during Christmas break," he said.
He's done four books in the "Ted & Coco" series and two books in the "I Am a ..." series. His other published titles are "The Blessing Coin," "The Antidote," "Oliver Meets the Mesa" and "Amy and Bella."
Clifford does his illustrations and designs pages after receiving a book's text.
"My characters are usually animals because kids can connect to them more easily than people and there's less chance of cultural issues distracting from a book's message," he said.
This is Clifford's second stint at Art at the Bodega.
He left in 2017 after two years there to teach art classes at three schools in Milwaukee, but he came back to central Illinois after Yocum informed him about the art teacher position opening at Washington High School.
"We wanted Jack to come back," Yocum said. "Everyone missed him. We couldn't imagine having our business without him."
Clifford's swimming and diving coaching experience, which includes six years at Champaign St. Thomas More and Urbana high schools, led to his job coaching the divers at Washington high school.
He was a volunteer coach for the girls team in the fall and he's in a paid position with the boys team this winter.
Clifford was a high school and club swimmer and a swimmer and diver at Monmouth College, and he also coached summer swimming for about 10 years. He graduated from Monmouth and later earned a master's degree in art education at the University of Illinois.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.