My earliest memories are the smell of crayons and the feel of Play-doh in my hands. I grew up in a house where mud pies were a form of expression. I feel fortunate that my parents enjoyed and embraced my messy side. Being an extraordinarily shy and quiet child, art gave me a safe way to express myself without having to open up and use words. When I say extraordinarily quiet….it is not an exaggeration. I was labeled a “selective mute” in kindergarten….and this was before the world of education had so many “labels.” I repeated kindergarten and slowly came out of my shell. However, I don’t think that would have been possible without that simple box of crayons which gave me a voice, when I felt I had none.
As I started middle school and high school, I became more outgoing and active. However, I was still self conscious, as teenagers are, and hid my ‘artsy’ side from everybody, including myself. I concentrated on being at the top of my high school class….straight A’s, advanced placement classes, honor society, and clubs galore. With high school graduation came the huge decision of a college and a major. With the help of my high school counselors and my family, I knew that my one true desire was to make a difference in the life of a young person. So, I chose to go into pre-medicine at Texas Christian University so that I could become a pediatrician. However, after a year of pre-med studies, I realized my heart was not in this field. I took an art class to “lighten” my academic load and I knew within the first week what I wanted to do! I wanted a career that gave a child a voice using ART.
When I graduated from TCU with my degree in Art Education, I knew where I wanted to teach. I wanted to be in the place where so many people helped to mold me into a well-rounded, intelligent, and happy human being. So, I moved back to Lewisville ISD and began my teaching career. As I look back at over two decades of teaching, I realize that I still strive to make a difference in my students’ lives and give them that much needed voice. I’ve never forgotten how that box of crayons and that lump of clay allowed me to work through my feelings. Art allows children to express themselves though the process as well as the movements. The wedging of the clay, the swirling of the brush can be a much needed release for a child. I lost that form of expression in my teenage years. I do not want my students to lose their voice as they grow older. As a reminder to them and to me, I have centered my classroom around a single Pablo Picasso quote that is proudly displayed on the largest wall in my art room. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I feel that my most significant contribution throughout all my years of teaching has been giving my students a voice through art. By giving my students a safe and loving environment, they do not feel afraid to be themselves. Art offers my students the freedom to explore without judgment and often without rules. My role as an educator is rooted in fostering and nurturing students to become active and confident participants in our world. My aim has never been to create professional artists, but rather to teach my students to live happy, enriched, and productive lives. Art helps foster a sense of expression, identity, creativity, and diversity. My art lessons help my students develop the creative thinking skills to better express their points of view. Just this week, one of my little kindergarteners, who will most likely repeat, said, “Look, my lines look like lightning!” As he created his zig-zag pattern he clearly delighted in exploring the creative possibilities. Children often draw or paint well before they can read or write. They use what may look like scribbles to express feelings and thoughts. They use art as a simple yet creative form of expression. My hope is that none of my students become critical of their own efforts and worried what others think. If I’ve done my job, then I’ve given my students the confidence and creative skills to take throughout their adult lives. I’ve given my students another voice!