Art creativity regardless of ability

Elementary teacher encourages pupils to express themselves in lessons while also having fun

June 11, 2006|By KATIE MARTIN | KATIE MARTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Piney Ridge Elementary School's Teresa Greenberg encourages her pupils to be creative in the art room, regardless of their artistic ability.

She said she wants all pupils to express themselves through art - and enjoy it.

"I design my art lessons so every student can be successful," Greenberg said. "I try to relate the concepts of the lessons to their own experiences to make it something they can connect with."

Greenberg, 49, of Manchester, has been teaching for 26 years in Carroll and Baltimore counties.

She was recognized for her accomplishments in the classroom as the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce selected her as an outstanding teacher. She was one of eight educators to receive the award this year.

The four high school, two middle school and two elementary school teachers were chosen from among nearly 200 student-nominated teachers countywide.

Greenberg said she tries to show the children that art is out there for them to enjoy.

"It's not just to look at, but to experience," she said.

Under the guidelines of elementary art curriculum, Greenberg's pupils explore art processes and study art history. They also learn about the work of artists and use art as a form of self-expression.

The children complete a variety of projects, including painting and printmaking.

Greenberg said one of her favorite lessons to teach is ceramics. It is something she said she remembers liking while in school.

"It seems to be a material that a lot of kids enjoy touching," Greenberg said. "They can feel it, they can mold it, and they can squeeze it. They just like having it in their hands and being able to create something that is three-dimensional."

Greenberg said she also incorporates literature and stories into her lessons, especially for younger pupils.

"I'll read them a book and then build the art lesson around the book," she said. "They love to be read to and when you connect an art project to a story or book, they relate to it more."

Getting pupils to find a way to relate to art is a key element of Greenberg's lessons, in addition to making the lessons fun and interesting.

She said she does that by talking about shared experiences, such as reading a book or seeing a sunset or watching the seasons change.

"I have to make it something that everyone can relate to and succeed in doing," Greenberg said - and that way pupils are more likely to retain the information over time.

At every school where Greenberg has taught, she said she organized an Arts Appreciation Night in March for Youth Art Month.

She described the event as a celebration of the arts that brings together the community and the school.

Musicians, dancers, high school artists, other local artists and parents are invited.

"It's really a nice way to show our students the role that arts have in the community and how art can be extended to a career possibility or just something that they enjoy doing or viewing," Greenberg said.

Cynthia McCabe, principal at Piney Ridge Elementary in Sykesville, called Greenberg "a great teacher."

"She works with every child to really bring out their full potential," McCabe said. "She also works on other academic committees throughout the school, so she does a lot more than just teach art here."

While in high school, Greenberg discovered a personal interest in art.

She said she worked teaching art to children at a summer camp, loved it and never looked back.

Greenberg attended the Philadelphia College of Art and Towson University where she earned a degree in art education. She also earned a master's degree from Loyola College.

Greenberg said she likes to think that art is a part of her life every day through her classes.

"My teaching has become my artistic expression," Greenberg said. "I craft my lessons like a piece of fine art."

Outside of the classroom, Greenberg serves on the school system's countywide multicultural committee and fine-arts curriculum-writing team. She said she also has presented at workshops about incorporating reading and writing into art lessons.

Often, she ends up in charge of art-related activities such as face painting at community events, she said.

Greenberg said she is saddened by talking to adults who have a dislike for art that stems from bad experiences because they couldn't paint or do art projects well in school.

"My program is designed regardless of students' artistic ability or artistic talent," Greenberg said. "I don't want students to have to feel that art is only for the kids who can draw well."

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