Art teacher shares winning style

He will be among six in county honored for teaching techniques

October 07, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

In Craig Drenning's eighth-grade art classes at Brooklyn Park Middle School, students won't be relying on the typical aid of a mirror to make self-portraits.

The third-year teacher intends to integrate digital photography into the project, asking students to enlarge and manipulate digital pictures of themselves on the computer, then paint or draw over them.

Besides exposing his students to all types of media before high school, he wants them to pull other disciplines into their art expression. Drenning was instrumental in organizing "An Evening of the Arts," which combined art exhibits with poetry readings and band performances.

"He really is a fresh breath here," said Ray Bibeault, principal of Brooklyn Park. "He's always ratcheting it up."

Drenning's modern interpretation on the art curriculum is part of the reason why he will be one of six Anne Arundel County teachers to receive an Outstanding Visual Arts Education Award this year. Drenning, 24, will receive the award Oct. 19 at the Maryland Art Education Association conference at Towson University.

The awards are given to teachers in two categories: new teachers with fewer than five years experience and career teachers, at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

"They do a remarkable job every day with their students," said Suzanne Owens, the county art coordinator who selected the winners for Anne Arundel County. She also is president of the Maryland Art Education Association.

Among the career winners, Linda Poteet of Crofton Meadows Elementary School has been an art teacher for 27 years and is a mentor for teachers-in-training for area colleges. She also volunteers to chair and install art exhibits, such as the Youth Art Month exhibit at Crofton Library each March.

Nancy Baker of Crofton Middle School has taught for eight years and has run the Natural Connections Program at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, which teaches students how to observe and draw nature.

June Perry, a 14-year teacher, is the department chairwoman at Annapolis High School. In that role, she wrote an art guide for the school's new International Baccalaureate program.

In addition to Drenning, the winners in the new teacher category are Raven Bishop of Jessup Elementary School and Daisy Shafer of Chesapeake High School.

Bishop, 24, has been at Jessup since she earned a bachelor's degree in art education at Kutztown University. She helped the school win grants from The Washington Post to set up a student art gallery in a conference room. After the fifth-grade art show, the students curate their own show of the best artwork from kindergarten through fourth grade. Each selection has a written explanation of how the work was executed and what it means.

Bishop said she likes watching students emerge as artists over the course of their five years.

"I get to see them grow and grow up," she said.

Shafer, 29, is in her fourth year of teaching photography and advanced placement art history at Chesapeake High School. In that time, she has installed Adobe Photoshop on all of the art department's computers and upgraded them with memory cards and scanners.

"When I came here, they were not up-to-date," said Shafer, who also helped get video projectors to show presentations and slide shows to her art history classes. She said she was surprised to be honored.

"I feel so good that this is being recognized," Shafer said.

On Friday, students in Drenning's eighth-grade class worked on still-life sketches. He helped students learn how to capture the shadows cast by the spotlights trained on each display.

"He's cool," said eighth-grader Dontee Patterson. "Whenever you need help, he's there."

Drenning said he learned quickly that some of his projects for middle school students were too ambitious. But he still is trying to push their skills. He wants to install Photoshop on the computers so that students can do more photo-editing projects.

For now, he is buying more tack strips so that he can hang as much student artwork as possible along the school's walls.

"I want them to be proud of what they produced," Drenning said.

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