The Lone Star State of the Arts
By: Sarah Gray
Photo courtesy of HSPVA
The movement of a paintbrush, plucking the string of an electric guitar, or singing alongside your classmates—the arts provide an escape, an expression, and an education.
Art, in its many forms, transcends students’ preexisting knowledge and allows them to connect to other subjects in different, more freeing ways. Although viewed by some as fun and easy courses with little to no homework, fine arts courses provide students with valuable skills and experiences. From teamwork to time management, high-level thinking and self-confidence, educators across Texas understand that the arts spark something extra in their students.
ATPE asked Texas teachers to share their stories of how fine arts have enriched the lives of their students, their schools, and their communities.
SCHOOL OF ROCK
Julia Turner is an ATPE member who teaches at Short Elementary in Arlington ISD
Photo courtesy of Julia Turner
”My school services around 500 students, with approximately 75 percent on free or reduced-cost lunch. Little Kids Rock is an innovative new kind of music education funded in part by donations. When the opportunity came for me to apply to become a Little Kids Rock teacher, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What I discovered was that this program changed the way I thought about how I teach students music. After attending the eight-hour workshop, I was sold. For attending, my students received over $3,000 worth of instruments FREE! We have started the program for third through sixth graders in music class. The program is easy and effective, and the students are in LOVE. Imagine a child’s face when they get to slip an electric guitar around their neck and are immediately successful at making it sound ‘right’! Our package included six acoustic guitars, an electric bass, two electric guitars, a drum set, two keyboards, and a new PA system. The excitement on my students’ faces when they walk in and see these brand-new, shiny instruments has had an awesome effect on my desire to teach! I am so excited and proud to begin this program! I now have a DonorsChoose.org campaign to try to get another six guitars and six ukuleles for a more one-on-one approach with my students.”
SOUNDS OF JOY
Beth Shier is an ATPE member and music teacher at the Academy at Carrie F. Thomas Elementary in Birdville ISD
Photo courtesy of Beth Shier
”The fine arts are a place for students to be creative and find their voice. When students participate in the fine arts, they learn so many life skills—working together for a common goal, teamwork, how to handle success and failure, work ethic, and how to produce their best work for an audience. I love it when my shy students with self-proclaimed ‘stage fright’ learn to overcome, shine on the stage, find their voice, and gain the confidence to do anything they put their mind to!”
Read the mission statement Beth Shier's student's wrote:
We, the musicians of ACFT, believe that music makes people happy and it can make the world a better place. We believe that our music class is a place to learn about making music, singing, instruments, and musicians. We need to learn music, both now and for our future. To do this, we will listen attentively, we will practice our music, participate in class, and make music together. We will work together and communicate with our classmates. We will be kind to each other and show respect. We will always give our best effort.
ART OF WEST TEXAS
Laurel Holman is an ATPE member and teaches art classes at Presidio High School in Presidio ISD
Photo courtesy of Laurel Holman
“We really have such talented kids here in Presidio in the arts—dance, music, theater, and of course the visual arts! I tell my kids that believe it or not, they use art every day in their lives. Many students tell me that they have no artistic talent, so I make a promise to them that in some form or fashion, they actually DO have some hidden artistic talent! I want my classroom to be a place of creating, having fun while learning, and self-expression, and a place where they can escape and relax. We do have a lot of fun, we laugh, and I also learn so much from them. I do love my students. We have the best kids down here in this dusty, west Texas border town.”
“Our Comic Con assignment is one that really grabs the interest of the students and is a great way to start off the year! The students learn about grid enlargements, and since we are so isolated in far west Texas, the kids get to experience a Comic Con for the first time! The Fort Worth Art Competition is for my more advanced students and is also a competition that the students enter every year.”
Read more about Laurel Holman’s art program on the ATPE Blog.
Teachers from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston ISD share what the arts mean to them
Photo courtesy of HSPVA
“Artistic expression is a vital part of being human. The arts express, nurture, and heal our connection to each other and the universe.”
—Stephen Crawford, Instrumental Department Chair
“I think the fine arts are important to our students because it gives them the opportunity to express their individuality in a medium that does not restrict one’s thinking with predetermined conventions. When a student is painting, dancing, or improvising on their saxophone, creative thought is allowed to move in any direction that might touch on science, math, or literature. When students are encouraged to create visually, in dance or music, they gain a sense of confidence that supports their learning across all subjects.”
—Tim Glover, Visual Arts Faculty
“Have you ever seen how passion can transform a classroom—how you can suddenly give life to a subject, which a child may have always believed was mundane, merely by making a connection to their art, their passion, their life? I have seen this, felt it, lived it. Let me be clear: If you take money away from what they love to learn, you doom them to muddle through a vaguely blurred and monotone education landscape rather than one that is filled with vibrant and vivid connection.”
—Vicky Hauptman-Bryan, English Department Chair
“I am proud of the fact that the arts are a transformative subject that could propel a student to go to college and gain a higher education. Often, the arts are viewed as a free-form subject. However, the arts are a great tool to teach time management, multitasking, higher-level thinking, problem-solving, and organization. Our students find their identity and pinpoint goals that have the potential to change the world.”
—David Waddell, Visual Arts Department Chair