Horizons Elementary School in Lacey is home to Washington state’s Elementary Art Educator of the Year.
Amada Lang was recently bestowed the title from the Washington State Art Education Association.
“She deserves this,” said parent Sharla Desy, who volunteers in Lang’s classroom. “She’s very enthusiastic, and I think she’s very creative.”
Horizons principal Tim Fries agrees.
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“Amada is dedicated to her students and her craft as a teacher,” he said. “She is constantly and actively learning and trying to grow stronger as a teacher.”
Lang, 40, of the Nisqually area, talked with The Olympian about the award and her career in education. Here are excerpts of the conversation:
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I grew up in Denver, Colo., and moved to the Northwest after graduating from high school. I went to The Evergreen State College and got a bachelor’s degree. My areas of study were art, social justice and South America.
I got married, and had two kids and I went back to Evergreen for a Master in Teaching degree. I graduated in 2005 with general education (credentials) for grades kindergarten to 8, and an art endorsement for K-12.
Q: How long have you taught?
A: This is my seventh year as a teacher. I’m an art specialist at Horizons. I started in North Thurston Public Schools as a long-term substitute at Lacey Elementary School.
Q: Tell us about the award.
A: It’s from the Washington Art Education Association, a statewide group affiliated with the National Art Education Association. I was nominated by a mentor teacher of mine, and a good friend. ... Every year, we have a conference in October, and that’s when I got the award.
It means a lot to me because it was from my colleagues – it was given to me by my peers. I kind of feel a little humbled by it because I’m still at the point at my job and my career that I still don’t believe I get paid for what I do because I love it so much.
Q: Why did you want to go into teaching?
A: I always wanted to be a teacher. I love teaching. I love children. My mother was a teacher, so I guess teaching is something that was always part of my family.
Teaching was one of my passions, but then to teach art — one of my personal passions — is the best ever.
Q: What do you enjoy about art, and teaching art?
A: The creativity and the critical thinking that’s involved in doing art, or music or theater. It’s the process, not the product.
I know (my students) won’t all be artists, but I want them to enjoy the process and what they’re doing. It’s about reflecting and changing and really thinking about what you’re doing.
Many of the skills they use in math or science such as measurement, critical thinking and observation are used in art. They’re learning these skills, but they’re having fun. They’re getting their hands dirty. They’re being amazed at what they can do.
And for me personally, art is just who I am — seeing the world, seeing it through the eyes of an artist, really being observant. It’s just who I’ve always been.
Q: What types of art do you enjoy?
A: I like to dabble in a lot of different things. I’ve done some fabric art, oil painting, photography and sculpture. The medium really doesn’t matter to me. It’s the creating that really gets to me.
Q: Describe what takes place in your classroom. How are students at Horizons experiencing art?
A: Most of my lessons are connected to another subject. I tie in literature with the little ones a lot. With fourth grade, I’ll tie it into social studies, and Washington State History. It’s not just purely art.
The art teachers in my district really work together so we have a curriculum that flows so that kids can go from elementary to middle to high school art classes without repetition.
I use humor a lot, and I use music. With the little ones, we sing about the colors, and with sixth graders, we do a computer-animation project.
Q: How do you reach students who are reserved about art? And what advice do you have for adults who would like to create art, but didn’t grow up with it in their lives?
A: I really focus on those kids who don’t think they can do it, and by the end of the year, I think they all feel like they can. ... I have projects for the kids who don’t feel successful at drawing, but then they get into clay and just love it.
Anyone can try art. Enjoy the process of it, and don’t get so focused on the product.
For people who are scared of it, if you go in with the attitude that you’re not going to be good at it, then you’re not going to be good at it.
That’s what I tell the kids – always try your best.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433