When's the last time you've taken a long pause to enjoy one of your child's paintings? Notice the colors. Look for symbols. There are clues about what your child is thinking if you look closely.
"A child's artwork is really about communicating who they are and how they understand their world," said Greenwich Public School art teacher Le Ann Hinkle, who teaches at Julian Curtiss School and North Mianus School. "Children have so much to say. Everything is new to them and they are constantly evaluating and reassessing what they know."
Families lately, she's noticed, have been using creative ways to cope with everything.
"I am seeing children and families engage in art-making as a way of coping, as a source of comfort and inspiration."
Shifting to remote teaching has not been without certain adjustments, especially in Hinkle's subject area. It is no surprise to learn teaching art is very much a hands-on, in-person experience.
"I miss my students," admitted Hinkle. "Visual arts rely heavily on direct instruction. It's been a challenge having to work virtually to help them work through their ideas and develop their knowledge and skills."
Still Hinkle has adjusted. More importantly, her students have adapted also. She credits her many co-workers for helping her adapt her teaching to an online environment.
"I work with very talented, capable colleagues, we have pulled together, balancing our strengths, to provide students and their families with lessons that tap into the resources they have available," said Hinkle.
A bonus of children schooling at home might mean more art? Maybe, considered Hinkle.
"Artistic endeavors both in and out of class, given their homeschool setting, continue after school, with fewer demands on their time socially. Or maybe there is no difference," she said.
Hinkle's work as an educator in the district has garnered her a top honor: She's been awarded the 2020 Connecticut Outstanding Art Educator of the Year by the Connecticut Art Education Association. This selection is in recognition of her significant contributions to the field of art education, said the district's announcement.
“We are so proud that Le Ann was selected for this prestigious award. Our schools have such dedicated and passionate arts teachers, instilling a love of learning in our students and helping them to grow and develop their artistic abilities. Le Ann always goes above and beyond for her students, and it is great to see her recognized for her continuous contributions," Greenwich Public School District Coordinator for the Arts and Music Laura Newell said.
For Hinkle, the award says more about her colleagues and her students than about her.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to represent Connecticut art educators and advocate for visual arts education. I am incredibly blessed to be in a district that continues to support my work with art educators across the country. My students are the brightest stars, always my inspiration for seeking out new solutions and innovative practices to best meet their needs.”
The CÆA Outstanding Educator Awards recognize visual arts educators for demonstrating excellence in the classroom, active participation and leadership at the local, state, and/or national level, publications and/or exhibits, advocacy for the arts and other art accomplishments.
An awards dinner has been postponed.