Teaching creative freedom

New elementary art teacher wants her students to learn how to explore and express themselves through art.

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September 18, 2020 - 3:39 PM

Rachel Boyd is the new elementary art teacher at Lincoln Elementary School and Iola Middle School. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Rachel Boyd expects her elementary art students will change a lot over the school year, physically, mentally and emotionally.

By next spring, their technical skills will have improved. More importantly, they won’t view themselves the same as they did when school began in August.

To prove her theory, she’s asking students to draw self portraits. 

One in August.

One in May.

“I want to be able to show parents how their students feel they have changed,” she said. “These are unprecedented times. They will feel different — very much so — from the beginning of the school year to the end.”

Boyd is the new art teacher for third and fourth grade students at Lincoln Elementary School, and fifth-graders at Iola Middle School. She also teaches photography to sixth-graders at IMS.

Boyd’s goal is to teach students how to express themselves in art, in whatever form that may take.

She wants them to learn creative freedom. To give themselves permission to explore. To think differently.

“To me, art that is very structured will still produce an amazing finished product, but they will look exactly the same,” she said.

“I want students to move away from that structured thinking. Give them enough structure so they know what they are creating, but give them enough freedom so it can be unique to them.”

That’s more challenging than you might think.

Some students didn’t know where to start and asked for permission to draw or create certain things.

“As long as it’s school appropriate, you can draw what you want,” Boyd told them.

When given the freedom to create, one of Boyd’s students used tissue paper to design a stained glass window. Another used tissue paper to build a paper airplane, and practiced flying it.

Her photography class used art supplies to design and edit an “I Spy” collage to send to first and second grade students at Jefferson Elementary School, as a fun project to identify the various items. 

BOYD never expected to teach art, though she’s always loved it.

Sure, she’s always loved art. 

That’s a trait she probably learned from her parents. Her mother continually drew pictures and illustrated books that she wrote — but never published. Her father enjoyed painting as a pastime.

Her mother passed away on July 8.

“She would be so happy that I’m an art teacher,” Boyd said.

Boyd grew up in Eureka. She studied art in high school and college, but didn’t pursue it as a degree.

She graduated in May with a teaching degree from Fort Hays State University. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in instructional technology, also at Fort Hays.

She and her husband, Jessie, have a 4-year-old daughter, Lillyana. They moved to Iola for Jessie’s job at Gates Manufacturing and recently bought a house.

Last spring, until the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the schools, Boyd practiced student teaching under third-grade teacher Terri Carlin at Lincoln. 

After that, she expected to work full-time on her master’s degree.

Instead she decided to take a last-minute opening as an art teacher. 

She never thought she would be an art teacher, just someone who loved art. 

“I absolutely love it,” she said of her job.

“I think art is 100% vital to core education. So many students struggle writing papers or verbalizing how they feel. Not all students are musically talented. But everyone can be artistically talented because it is up to the individual to see what they like and what they don’t.”

Boyd most enjoys pottery. Lincoln doesn’t have a pottery wheel, but she’s looking forward to teaching students how to create using air-dry clay.

She hopes students can learn to express their feelings through art.

“Art can be an outlet. It doesn’t have to be just another assignment, a class they’ve got to get through.”

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