Carroll teacher is named Art Educator of the Year State association picks German-born instructor at Wolfe, Taneytown schools

January 04, 1998|By Ed McDonough | Ed McDonough,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Ruth Aukerman studied to be an English teacher in her native Germany, but marriage to an American and volunteer work at the Maryland School for the Deaf changed her career plans.

She became an art teacher. Aukerman, who teaches at Elmer Wolfe and Taneytown elementary schools, recently was selected Art Educator of the Year by the Maryland Art Education Association.

"I wouldn't be an art teacher if not for my husband," Aukerman said of Dale, the man she met in Germany and married, and with whom she settled in Linwood, near Union Bridge.

Aukerman, who said she trained under several respected German art teachers, volunteered at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick after moving to the United States. It was there that she saw how art helped deaf students blossom.

After earning a master's degree in art education at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Aukerman started teaching in Carroll County public schools.

Seventeen years later, she still sees students blossom through art.

Aukerman recalls one struggling student whose morale was boosted when his work was selected for display at school.

Displaying artwork is paramount to Aukerman's program at the Wolfe and Taneytown schools.

Elmer Wolfe students are temporarily housed in the former New Windsor Middle School -- an elementary school is under construction in Union Bridge -- and their art brightens the halls and greets visitors.

But Aukerman has taken art displays a step further. Working with Union Bridge Lions Club, she has put together a student art show at the Taneytown branch library, complete with ribbons and a reception for the artists.

The show, she said, has three benefits for the students: pride in displaying their work, a chance to see works of fellow student artists and exposure to the library.

Aukerman also started an "Artist for Lunch" program at Elmer Wolfe that features monthly cafeteria visits by senior citizens and community artists.

"The kids are so excited by that," she said. "They ask the artists to autograph their napkins."

The Elmer Wolfe Parent Teacher Organization runs the program.

Aukerman said she has been lucky to work for supportive principals in schools where she has taught in Carroll County.

Parents also have played a key role, helping in the classroom, sending recycling household items to school for use in art classes and matting artwork for display, she said.

Aukerman said she sees it as one important part of a complete education.

"It's not a frill, it's a vital part of every person's education," she said. "It fosters high-level thinking skills, which can lead to higher test scores."

She makes sure her students are exposed to the works of great masters to help them develop their own talents.

Aukerman has taught at the Maryland Institute, spoken at national conventions and, several years ago, published a book of children's art.

Still, she said she was surprised to be nominated for the award by other art educators, noting the many deserving educators in Carroll and Maryland. Besides, it's the reaction from the students, not the awards, that motivates Aukerman.

"Everything is now technological education," she says. "We have to go back to values-based education. Art is one part of that because it has to come from within."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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