It has been a magical three years as the art teacher of Garden Hills, but it is time for me to move on the Forest. I hope the community, students, parents, and teachers of the Hills understand the difficulty in my choice to leave. An opportunity to work with Principal Cynthia Gunner presented itself in late April and I couldn't resist.
While scrolling my twitter feed back in 2018, I was introduced to Peyton Forest with an article in the New York Times magazine. Click here to read the article. After reading the article, I was inspired by Gunner's dedication to building a positive learning community, her realistic approach to school planning, and her love for her students. It was never on my radar to leave the Hills, but I had a chance of working with Peyton Forest through my art leadership role with Dr. Womack, the coordinator of Fine Arts for Atlanta Public Schools. Through mentoring and classroom observations, I found myself sitting across from Principal Gunner. We chatted and discussed the importance of art education and how it can empower students and just over her shoulder was the reproduction of Henry O. Tanner's "The Banjo Lesson". The article from the New York Times had been intriguing and now her choice of office art planted a seed of wonder. You haven't seen the painting I just mentioned? Click the link to see a video about the work.
But leaving would mean stepping away from the loving creative community of Garden Hills. Garden Hill's is a historic community with the legacy stretching back to 1938. The architecture screams history and I was proud to be a part of the history! Three years ago, I had an opportunity to sit before an interview panel leading to a sample lesson with a team of 2nd graders (now 5th grade students) and I walked away with the job! Garden Hills is a highly competitive position and it was like striking gold. Also, I had personal connections with friends having worked at the school in the past, both of which have moved into leadership roles within Atlanta and international. I was choosing to step away from a remarkable place, an art oasis, a community hyper-focused on student support....what was I supposed to do?!?
I truly believe teaching is a calling. My calling to art education was cemented firmly when I explored how art changes communities in an introductory sculpture class which ended with my art being thrown in a dumpster. A story for another day! That class, that art project, and that dumpster affirmed my belief: art speaks volumes and I need to be a part of that world! (Little Mermaid reference *click here for the song.)
Fifteen years ago, I left the University of West Georgia with the naive plan to stay at one school for my entire teaching career. On average teachers stay for less than five years and I was determined to stay thirty in one place! I wish that was the case! Staying at one school would have saved me muscle aches from packing and toting boxes and would have saved me tears rolling down my cheeks. Leaving a school for me is NEVER easy! Half way through my career and I am leaving for my fifth school. My track record has been: Liberty Point, Alcova, Five Forks, Garden Hills, and now Peyton Forest. My forever home is education and sometimes you get a calling like in "The Banjo Lesson" to share your knowledge with someone else, a different generation, or in my case a different school.
Thank you to the community of Garden Hills for allowing me three amazing years with your children and hello to Peyton Forest, I am excited to share my love for art with you!
Check out some of my favorite pictures from digital learning and from my three years at the Hills.
As school districts across the nation make proactive decisions to close schools to limit the spread of CORVID-19, teachers are planning, organizing, and beginning to take learning on to a digital platform. It can feel stressful and overwhelming to take curriculum, especially ART classrooms, online. There are so many resources and don't feel like you are alone. Reach out on social media, direct message a new friend, and use Google Meet to schedule face time with fellow teachers!
As a middle grade teacher several years ago, my former district was super proactive and forward-thinking with an implementation of eClass, an online class module, which has now developed into a more streamline format with Google Classroom. Google Classroom has so many features that make learning fun! From group projects where students can interact with each other to fun extensions with Chrome! My favorite extension is SCREENCASTIFY! CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO!!!
However, you communicate with your students it is each to push out fun creative lessons! Here are a few resources that have been shared through social media.
In my school, I am required to post a Google doc with provided links to lessons. Again, we use Seesaw for communication and student interaction. From sorting shapes to digital sketching, my students will have an opportunity to digital media for their weekly art lesson.
Lastly to combat stress, I encourage you to stick to a schedule. I have received several text from concerned parents and I understand this is an unusual set of circumstances, but stick to a time table! I have seen this schedule online EVERYWHERE. I know I plan to keep a schedule to rock my digital work and I hope you do the same!
I am eager to begin my 15th year of teaching! It feels like yesterday, I walked into my first room at Liberty Point Elementary in Union City. With a few extra gray hairs, I feel my zeal and passion for art education still strongly lives in my heart and is shown on my smiling face. I am so fortunate to live and work with Atlanta Public School in the Garden Hills community. With a growing student population and a strong school family, I am able to fully fund projects that highlight my passion for cross-curricular lessons while maintaining a high quality of materials and student products. In my short two years with Garden Hills, I have had 11 projects funded with the help of DonorsChoose. It is an awesome non-profit organization that connects funders with educators. Teachers write a school narrative, describe the materials and tools needed, and in return the financial donors receive thank you notes from the teacher and students. I have two projects currently receiving matching donations, so please consider contributing to my community of artists to prepare us for a successful 2019-2020 school year!
Summer is quickly approaching and parents want to extend art learning into the summer! Here are my top picks for art camps!
Did you know we have a modern museum in Atlanta! They are remarkable and develop lessons that support the popular STEAM curriculum seen in many public schools. This combination of art with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics allows students to explore connections and create cool art. Check out their web page for times, prices, and weekly themes.
Just around the corner in West Midtown, an art camp that encourages students to change the world might be the summer camp for your students. Check out the flyer for more information about the Draw Change Art Camp. CLICK HERE for flyer!
With programs that extended from five years to fifteen years old, Zone of Light studio might been the needs of your artist from kindergarten to High School. They have daily drop-ins, weekly discounts, and awesome themed weeks with NO repeated projects. Check out the website for more details:
For your advanced students with a drawing foundation, check out these classes from the Chastain Art Center. On the first page of the PDF, the summer camp highlights the cost and dates. This will fill up fast, so call to see availability.
AND don't forget, Atlanta Public Schools offers a FREE POWER UP CAMP for all students in rising 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Check out the details https://www.atlantapublicschools.us/powerup
This afternoon, I had the honor of being invited to the 5th Annual Education Luncheon to celebrate the artistic partnerships through the Woodruff Arts Center and Atlanta Public Schools. As I listened to the positive impact with just ONE art-rich experience for at-risk students, I began to reflect on my first student tour of the High Museum.
There was magic at Alcova Elementary. The school was a perfect combination between eccentric teacher personalities and an energetic young community in Dacula, Georgia. It was the first school that captured my heart. I worked with them for seven years and NEVER taught the same project twice. We changed light blubs in the ceiling to create black art light, explored digital photography, and worked in collaborative groups to design surfboards. I wanted to change the students’ experiences and show them the fun of art! In my last year, I wanted to challenge myself! ArtAccess, a free program for Title I school to visit the High Museum became my next hurdle.
If you know anything about Gwinnett County Schools, they build MASSIVE schools! Alcova at my highest enrollment has nearly 1,300 students. So applying for the free museum trip proposed a logistical problem with each grade level having more than the two hundred-student cap. I filled out two separate applications for half of my second grade team one day and then the other half the following day. I made color-coded nametags and divided students into groups with teachers and chaperons. I designed a shirt for our students to be identical for safety. I created an activity extension mini-sketchbook, so students could connect their learning to social studies and writing. I scheduled buses, organized lunches, and was NERVOUS about taking 235 students to Atlanta, nearly 27 miles away from home!!! The first day arrived and with a small bus delay, we missed our check-in by thirty minutes, but the staff was amazing. The kids were set-up with individual guided tours and lunch on the lawn. And day two was smooth sailing!
Looking back on the stress of this field trip was nothing compared to the smiles from our two-day journey! Allowing my students to see a slice of art life outside of the art room of Alcova Elementary was remarkable as an observer. The smiles, laughter, and sleeping children on the way home, STILL warms my heart today! These amazingly creative students would be in 7th grade and I hope they remember the awesome adventure to the High as Alcova "Goes West"!
Art is a powerful medium! I was so grateful to hear powerful woman like Dr. Meria Carstarphen and Ann Cramer attest the power of arts have on the heart! And so fortunate, I get a first hand view in my classroom everyday!!! Thank you the Woodruff Arts Center for being partners in art education and supporting me and my students during my 14 year career!
As February draws to an end, I was reflecting on the amazing event celebrating wellness, literacy, and art! Our first LOVE Garden Hills event was hosted on one of the coldest days in February, but was thankfully all in doors. Families had an opportunity to explore the wellness center in the media center with local doctors, yoga specialist, and massage therapist. Teachers volunteered with art making stations, literacy games, and self-stations. And lastly, in the gym we had two guest readers to entertain us while gazing at the tremendous art show with 524 masterpieces on display. The theme of LOVE was evident with the smiling faces of both students and parents. Check out the pictures from the amazing night!!!
We are excited to host the first annual LOVE Garden Hills event on Tuesday, February 12th from 6 to 8! Coach Johnson, the literacy committee, and myself are each presenting activities and fun for the whole family that celebrates the LOVE of art, the LOVE of health, and the LOVE of literacy.
Families will have an opportunity to travel in the gymnasium, the art room, the focus room, the media center, and the third grade hallway exploring art, literacy, and health! Come chat with local doctors to explore healthy cooking alternatives for kids while sampling a kale salad from our local garden with Food Corps. Head into classrooms and make Valentine's Day cards, string beads for a necklace, or experiment with wooden sculpture with hammer and yarn! North Atlanta High School students will have 30 portraits on display along with our students' art work! Every Garden Hill's artists will have one picture on display with the help of Artome (a framing company and art fundraiser).
Check out the invitation or contact Dr. Erickson for more information!
We had nearly 350 students enter the Race to Read Bookmark contest and the winners were selected Wednesday by our Media Center expert, Mr. Jolly. Thank you to everyone's hard work and congratulations to the winners: Reese (PK), Mateo (K), Tatum (1), Amirah (2), KayLeigh (3), Mia (4), and Ava (5). The bookmarks will be printed in January so be on the look out for these Garden Hills collectables!
Art Room Blog