Local teacher takes art to new (Emerald) Heights

Evidence of Leslie Boyer’s presence is all over the walls of Emerald Heights Elementary School.

The halls are lined with “Artist’s Galleries” and samples of student work. The high walls of the school library display boutique-style fabric banners with dolphins, lizards and other exotic animals. Library room dividers are made of colorful vitric tiles crafted of fused broken glass — they give the illusion of being suspended in mid-air.

Boyer’s creativity and unique approach to teaching art recently was recognized by the Washington Art Association, which named her Teacher of the Year. She has worked at Emerald Heights since it opened nine years ago.

Her class is unique in part because she tries to align her assignments with other teachers’ lessons — if students are studying Egypt, Boyer will have them study Egyptian art.

“The thing I really want to do here is to connect art with classroom curriculum,” Boyer said.

The skills that are used to analyze paintings are the same that enable students to uncover themes and symbolism in literature, Boyer pointed out.

Her students research and write reports about artists’ lives. They also must write a critique of an artists’ works.

“(Critiques) create educated art appreciators, and those skills that make a person able to critique intelligently are the same skills they would use to critique other work — written and visual,” Boyer said.

Boyer said critiques are good tools for becoming familiar with a variety of art, and illustrate connections between art and history.

Boyer, who was nominated for the award by Olympic High School art teacher Lorinne Lee, was involved with the Central Kitsap School District’s Art Docent program for seven years before she went back to school to study art.

“I have always been involved with art,” she said. “My mother and brother are artists and I sold pen and ink drawings. I turned 40 and decided to go back to school and do the thing that I loved more full time.”

One of the challenges Boyer faces in her career is tailoring her assignments so they are accessible to students of all skill levels — from special-needs students to budding Monets.

Boyer has organized her schedule to allow for a parent volunteer in every class, which she said is “enormously helpful” in making sure students understand assignments.

Another challenge is operating from the cart she pushes from room to room, and organizing her materials.

“There’s also keeping my clothes clean,” Boyer joked.

Boyer said she was surprised to learn that she won the award because she had been nominated before, but did not win.

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