New teacher seeks to inspire a passion for art

The coronavirus pandemic makes it challenging to create remote lessons, as teacher doesn't know what kind of supplies students have at home.

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September 21, 2020 - 9:36 AM

Grace Luther is the new art teacher at Iola Middle School. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Grace Luther’s love of art started in middle school.

“That’s when I noticed myself drawing on any scrap of paper,” she said.

She wanted to help other middle school students discover their own passion for art.

She’s now teaching art at Iola Middle School.

“Art was something I connected with. It was a great way to express myself when words were not enough or I didn’t know how to put something into words,” she said. 

“I try to share my love of art with the next generation.”

Luther grew up near Buffalo and graduated from Altoona-Midway High School. She earned a degree in art education from Bethany College in Lindsborg, and taught five years in Neodesha before coming to Iola.

She enjoys experimenting with different materials, and hopes students come away from her class with a better understanding of what they like. She also wants them to learn general art history.

“Above all else, I want them to have a general willingness to try something new and grow from that experience,” she said. 

Art is an emotional experience, Luther said, but it also helps students develop critical thinking skills. 

“We’re looking at our projects and how we can improve them. We’re having conversations and learning how to give and receive constructive criticism.”

Her biggest inspirations to teach came from some of her past teachers.

Her fifth grade teacher took a very “hands on” and personalized approach to learning, which Luther appreciated. 

In middle school, Luther received tutoring from a teacher with a reputation for being very strict. 

“But she was fantastic,” Luther learned. “She was wonderful, very caring, and she took the time out of her day to help me with my studies.”

Then, in high school, Luther finally had the opportunity to study art. It wasn’t offered in elementary or middle school.

“Getting to have a proper education on how to draw, how to work with these different materials, was absolutely wonderful,” she said.

She still keeps in contact with her high school art teacher.

She also hopes to become the kind of teacher who is a combination of all three of her mentors: “Kind, caring, fun-loving.”

“I hope they respect me and know what I expect from them. I hope they think I’m caring, because I do care about them.”

TEACHING ART during a pandemic presents unique challenges.

In the classroom, Luther and her students must be diligent about sanitation practices. They must clean shared supplies every time they use them.

But bigger challenges come with teaching remote students, those who have chosen to stay home and learn online.  She will record audio lessons, sometimes adding video to allow students to put a face with the voice.

Luther creates “choice boards,” giving them options on what type of project to complete. Students need flexibility in those projects, because they may not have the necessary supplies at home.

“I have no idea what the kids have. They could have a whole collection of art material, or they could just have pencil and paper,” she said.

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