REDWATER, Texas — Year in and year out, Redwater Independent School District’s Art programs put forth efforts that land them individual and school recognitions at the regional and state level.
The district has been recognized with the Texas Art Education Association District of Distinction Award for two years in a row, and are looking to make that three. In addition, they’ve had at least one student participate in the Visual Arts Scholastic Event at the state level for the past three years.
This is just to name a couple of recognitions. And while that success is something to behold, Redwater High Art Teacher Carrie Slay says it’s all a part of the plan.
“When I came to the district, I had in mind that I really wanted to go for the district of distinction,” Slay said. “And I was really happy because Stacy Norton had that same idea, and it’s nice when you have a partner in arms. So, we started building all that, and it’s a rubric of different things. Honestly, it’s to keep you showing your students off throughout the year. I think that’s really important.”
Redwater’s art instructors include: Slay, Tabitha Houchens (high school and junior high photography), Stacie Norton (junior high and middle school art) and Stacy Deaton (elementary art).
With support from their administration team and an impressive level of student dedication, they are able to provide kids in the district with creative opportunities that they otherwise may have never encountered.
“We have a well rounded art department at our district that includes teachers with different teaching and career backgrounds,” Stacie Norton said.
Tabitha Houchens said their district has shown a dedication to advancing art programs.
“This district and its administrators believe that every student is capable of achieving in whatever avenue they wish to pursue, including the arts,” Houchens said. “We may be small, but our kids have big dreams and determination, and we encourage that. Our visual arts program is strong not only because of the administration and teachers, but also because of the students. They have a lot of talent and heart and truly enjoy being allowed to express themselves visually.”
Of all the lessons taught through their classes, one of the most important they try to relay to students is how to become a problem solver. This not only helps with the project that they may be working on at the time, but can translate to any activity or career field.
“I tell my kids all the time that you’re solving problems when you’re creating your artwork,” Slay said. “I’m not creating someone who’s going to just do what I’m telling them to do. That will help them in so many different places. Yes, you can draw this well now or color this well now, but you had to solve problems and figure out how the best way was to do that.
“My favorite part is when they get it — when a kid has that ‘aha’ moment, whether it’s an Art 1 kid or an Art 4 kid or a kid working through their feelings and trying to figure out life. I love when you see that light bulb. And it happens for different kids at different times.”
Stacie Norton seconded this notion.
“In my classroom, we strive to live by Bob Ross’ motto, ‘No mistakes, only happy accidents.'” she said. “I work to instill the idea that we can fix mistakes instead of allowing the students to start completely over on a project. I believe these problem solving skills will continue to aid students through other aspects of their lives.”
This infrastructure of creativity and problem-solving has created a cohesive learning environment that has shown to be effective.
“The class is really fun,” Art 2 student Riley Kredo said. “We kind of just talk about whatever and what we’re working on with our projects. And it’s really fun because we all get to help each other and see how everybody’s doing. Last year in art, I didn’t like it as much because my class was really quiet. And I’m not really that great of an artist, but I felt much better in my skills this year so I really enjoy it now.”
Through district-wide art shows, several local art and photography shows, statewide exposure from competitions and a detailed curriculum, Redwater ISD attempts to provide its students with the opportunity to test their limits through the arts.
“I try to give my students the opportunity to explore another avenue in the arts through photography,” Houchens said. “I want them to know and understand more than just Instagram photos and selfies, and that photography is a wonderful art form that can be utilized in a lot of areas in life.”
Slay said she hopes she and her fellow teachers’ efforts can help build up her community in the arts.
“A lot of students have it in their head that ‘Well, that kid can do it because he’s talented.’ And that is true, but that kid’s talented because he’s practiced and tried different things,” she said. “We want our kids to know that even if they don’t feel like they’re a super artsy kid, they can still build their skills and they can create beautiful things.”