Digital art at Ronald Reagan Elementary gains boost from APS Phoenix Suns STEM grant | News

Every year, Arizona Public Service (APS) partners with Phoenix Suns Charities to provide $50,000 in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teacher Grants. Arizona teachers were able to apply in the fall semester this academic year for an award of up to $2,500. When the notifications of award went out late last year, art teacher Vanessa Gamez-Martinez of Ronald Reagan Elementary School was surprised to learn she ended up winning $1,500.

“I applied for the grant to help fund my students with photography equipment such as backdrops, lighting, camera lens attachments and new digital art applications like Procreate or Sketches School Pro,” she said.

When funds were dispersed in December, she explained that her class was working on a photography unit that will eventually lead into a teacher appreciation gift honoring teachers that inspire students. The grant will help with this goal, allowing students to take pictures of teachers in a more editorial and high-fashion style to personally highlight them and later use graphic design elements to make the photos look like they belong in the pages of magazines like Vogue.

“I’ve always been very passionate about using digital media as a form of self-expression and creativity,” Gamez-Martinez said. “And since I’ve started introducing digital art/media, I’ve seen students create some wonderful projects that are so unique and personal to them.”

Gamez-Martinez has also been collaborating with Ronald Reagan Elementary’s music teacher, who’s been incorporating sound design and production. Gamez-Martinez’s goal is to have students not only create animated shorts and films but original soundtracks as well.

Since receiving the grant, Gamez-Martinez has purchased styluses which can be used as digital pencils of sorts and a photography background for her students to use in their photography unit which has been ongoing.

“I hope that as we continue our journey through digital art, students will also gain skills that will help them become visual storytellers and express themselves in a way that has never been seen before at their age,” she said. “I strongly believe young people have so much to say and I hope my class can give them the tools/skills they need to tell their stories or share their ideas.”

Robert G. Mull

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