Grants provide color to art of teaching

Two Wapakoneta Middle School teachers — one who chose technology, one who chose art — used grants from the Wapakoneta Area Community Foundation (WACF) to enhance the educational experience of their students.
Fifth-grade language arts teacher Kim Mullen used the $2,500 2010 Outstanding Educator grant to purchase a color printer, a digital camera, a photorgraph printer, a digital video camera and computer software for her classroom.
“The grant has allowed me to purchase items that have totally changed the way I teach,” Mullen said after Monday’s WACF annual banquet. “It has made teaching more exciting for me and I think my excitement rubs off on the kids.
“Definitely it has made the kids in my class much more creative and has enhanced our creative thinking altogether,” she said. “The kids and I are always coming up with different ways to do things and all the color creates a really positive atmosphere in my classroom. My room is just full of color.”
Addressing WACF members, Mullen showed off a banner created with a collage of photographs of the students on a field trip. She noted she often prints pictures for the students doing activities in the classroom for their memory books and to brighten the walls in her room while also documenting the work they do.
They also make posters for projects.
Mullen, who has been teaching for 14 years at the Wapakoneta Middle School, graduated from Wapakoneta High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mount Vernon Nazarene and her master’s degree from The Ohio State University.
The technology also made a difference in the way the students in her classes approach their coursework.
“The kids feel like true professionals,” Mullen said. “It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. It boosts their self-esteem and they put more effort into their work because they see the final product and how nice it looks and they have the tools to accomplish what they envision in their minds.”
Art teacher Tracey Otto used money from the 2010 Outstanding Educator grant to bring in people from a variety of arts — from music to culinary, from dance to drawing — for “A Day with the Arts” which was held in April at the Wapakoneta Middle School. She organizes “A Day with the Arts” every three years so students get a chance at least once during their years at the school.
“I think it makes a huge difference in their education as a whole because they are learning how the visual performance arts are applicable to all areas of their life and their education,” Otto told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “They learn how the meshing of all the disciplines gives them a well-rounded education.”
Otto, who is in her 13th year of teaching art at Wapakoneta Middle School, said many students believe if they are not a strong drawer or a talented singer that there is not a place for them in the arts “and they couldn’t be further from the truth because there are so many areas of the arts in which they can express themselves.”
The Uniontown native also cherishes the fact the students are exposed to different cultures and the day benefits the student by bringing these different experiences to the school.
Otto, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in art education from Bowling Green State University and her master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Findlay, said she hears many positive comments from the students regarding the day.
“I think because everything is so driven by technology now that they almost forget sometimes what it feels like to have the variety of hands-on experiences they can still have,” Otto said.
Both teachers felt the grants provided one important ingredient to their teaching.
“It makes learning fun, it makes teaching fun — it is just fun,” Mullen said.