Art Matters!Posted: April 22, 2012
This has been the best year of my life as a teacher!! I have always loved teaching, but this year I have savored it moment by moment. Let me explain. I never grew up wanting to be an art teacher. I never took art in middle school or high school because I knew for sure that I was NOT an artist because of an experience I had in elementary school. The art teacher gave us the assignment to draw a tree. She even drew one on the board that had parallel sides and three branches on top that looked like a crown. She added to that a green shaped cloud. Then she passed out the manilla paper and crayons and I began to draw not just any tree, but the tree that I would sit under so very often in my side yard. I only needed black and brown and gray at first as I made the bark and the branches the way I’d see it as I looked up from under it. A little green here and there and some yellow where I could see the sun poke through. I remember being in another place as I saw the teacher pick up my drawing and hold it for the class to see. How proud I felt!! Then she asked the class, “What is wrong with this picture?” I don’t remember much more about it, except that she wadded it up and threw it away. I don’t remember anymore about elementary art after that. And I sure didn’t take art later when it was optional.
When I was a young mom, I decided to stay home with my two girls. I put off going to college. I stayed home and played with them. I discovered art again. I made sure they knew they were artists. We watercolor painted, used sidewalk chalk, and made our own playdough. We visited museums, parks, and playgrounds. Once the girls were both in elementary school, I decided to go to college to be an elementary teacher. I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah at the time, and in Utah there were no SPECIAL teachers. The elementary teacher was expected to cover the entire curriculum, including art, music, p.e., and library. The only area that I felt weak in was art. So I earned my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and my Teaching Minor in Art. I was hired just days after graduation to teach 4th grade at Upland Terrace Elementary. I loved teaching!! I taught there for 5 years until I moved back to my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana.
To my surprise I was hired as an art teacher at Arlington Elementary!! The principal told me he liked the idea of someone who was a teacher first AND an artist. He believed I was an artist!!! I have been Arlington Elementary’s art teacher for 11 years now. I have discovered for sure that I am an artist!! I have a goal of making all 650 of my students know that they are artists too.
Last year I was so proud to be chosen as Franklin Township’s Teacher of the Year. It was a great honor! But, it was especially powerful for me, because the day before the award ceremony, I was told that I would be teaching 4th grade at Bunker Hill in the fall. Franklin Township had decided to eliminate all of the elementary art, music, and p.e. teachers. And yet, I could be proud that the portfolio committee at The University of Indianapolis chose an art teacher’s portfolio to win!!
Just a few days later, I was given my job back due to a re-calculation of the funding formula that determined how monies would be distributed to the state. What a happy day! I had already packed my desk. I had already met my new team at Bunker Hill. But now, I could unpack and begin again to plan for the new school year at Arlington Elementary.
That is what has made me savor every moment of this year. I came so close to losing it all and it made me realize how much I love it. I am writing this letter to say thank you for sending me your young artists! And to ask you to please stand with me to keep art in our schools. Students thrive in the Arlington art studio. Their creativity is nurtured and honored here. They get to be problem solvers. They create computer art, collages, paintings, drawings, weavings, clay sculptures, and architectural structures. No one’s art is criticized or thrown away. Instead they learn to look at and talk about what art is and what they like in each other’s art and master artworks. They learn to make decisions as they choose what they will work on. They learn to take care of the materials. They learn to share. They learn that they are artists!!
Thank you for these children. Let us continue to support the arts together!