ELYRIA — Don’t call it art camp for teachers.
Yes, their tables were crowded with paints, glue sticks and chopped-up magazines ideal for decoupage. But the Lorain Schools teachers holed up Wednesday in a classroom at the Lorain County Community College were there to learn.
During the summer, teachers embark on myriad professional development courses, all aimed at strengthening their ability to reach students in the classrooms. In Lorain, this type of teacher training has taken on a life of its own as the district works its way from under an Academic Distress Commission put in place by the Ohio Department of Education to address the district’s lagging academics.
About 30 teachers are participating in the five-day training session with a facilitator from the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. With supplies that are right at home in an art class, teachers learned how they can bring out the artist in their students, even if the course is language arts. It can be as simple as finding the poetry in music or using a painting as inspiration for an essay.
“We are bringing the art out of language arts because it allows students to have a voice,” said Jeannette Chappell-Nettles.
Chappell-Nettles has been a language arts teacher in Lorain for 17 years, most recently working with eighth-graders at Gen. Johnnie Wilson Middle School. The lengthy tenure has given her a perspective on the changing nature of education. Technology, the 24-hour news cycle and smartphones, which give students instant access to information, have given some teaching methods an archaic feel.
“When I first got started in education, it was books and paper and pencil work,” she said. “Students are not engaged in that realm any longer. To reach students now, we have to help them develop love for actual learning because they think they don’t need you.”
The workshop focused on visual thinking strategies and artistic books geared toward students in fourth and fifth grades.
“But if teachers are creative they can use these techniques in their classrooms for as young as third-graders up to high school students,” said Addie Gayoso, an associate educator at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. “We are here to bring new ideas to classroom teachers, and it’s their job to make it work within the confines of what they do, like matching it to Common Core standards.”
Gayoso lives in Washington D.C., but is a Lorain native who was a Lorain Schools student through middle school and transferred to Lorain Catholic High School. The workshop she presented is a part of a museum program called Arts, Books and Creativity. This is the first time it has been presented outside the D.C. metro area and Lorain is being used as a pilot school to see if the program can be nationalized for teachers across the country.