Wielding pencils, paintbrushes, scissors and glue is fun for Wrightsville Beach School art teacher Jennifer Crafts and her students, but couched in each project is a larger lesson to help students succeed in the classroom and in future careers.
Art, Crafts said, is an opportunity to reinforce important concepts in other subjects and develop broader skills like problem solving and critical thinking.
“I think art is a great connector between all other subject areas,” said Crafts, who works with other teachers to incorporate the content students are learning in their main classrooms into the art projects she plans.
A more accessible approach for some students than traditional educational methods, Crafts said art overlaps particularly well with social studies and math concepts.
“Especially for a kid, if math is not their favorite, if we can integrate it with something that is enjoyable to them and get those concepts across, that’s a good tie-in,” Crafts said.
Some students recognize the educational opportunities in art class, including third-grader Neale McIntyre.
“Sometimes because you learn about all these things, if you do a project on it, you know some more of the answers,” McIntyre said.
But mostly, students said they like Crafts’ class because it is fun.
“I like the projects we do. It’s fun to paint,” said third-grader Ella Boyer.
Students are acquiring important skills needed for career-readiness while having fun, Crafts said.
“They’re learning to creatively solve problems, and if it doesn’t work the first time, to try it again. That is what the careers of the future, and even right now, are about: how do we solve this particular problem? We have to think about all the different solutions. We do things in here with a lot of different processes and a lot of problem-solving,” Crafts said.
Students are not the only ones who notice something special occurring in the school art room; Crafts was voted 2015-16 Wrightsville Beach School Teacher of the Year by fellow Wrightsville Beach teachers.
Because teachers rarely have the opportunity to leave their classroom to observe one another in action, they earn a reputation as a strong teacher through the noticeable impact they make on students, said Wrightsville Beach School principal MaryPaul Beall. Other teachers see that Crafts brings a lot of creativity to the school, Beall said, and uses a positive attitude to help students feel confident in their creative potential.
“The students, when they go into her classroom, feel successful. She doesn’t put them down if they don’t have art ability. She works with each individual child and she does some really neat things,” Beall said.
Every school in the district names a teacher of the year, who can then complete an application and interview process to be considered for the countywide teacher of the year. New Hanover County Schools’ Teachers of the Year will be honored and announced during a June banquet.