'It's hard to separate art from life'
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:28 AM
"Art teacher Anita Shaw's favorite pupils are junior high students, a group many educators shy away from.My love is in the junior high level, the Central Kitsap Junior High School art teacher said. They're still children who really want to learn, yet they have the desire to take on larger challenges.Shaw's flair for teaching at this level recently landed her a prestigious National Art Education Association award for middle-level art educators. Shaw was nominated for the award by a former Klahowya Secondary School teacher and colleague, Cathleen DeCoster. The nomination read, (Shaw's) students are constantly navigated through a wealth of hands-on experiences, all balanced with exploration into Art History, Aesthetics and Criticism (sic). Her rooms, assemblages of eclectic examples of both 2D and 3D venues, triumph student work.Shaw, who also teaches at Central Kitsap High School, competed with thousands of teachers in the Pacific Region - which includes the western United States, Guam and parts of Canada - to win the award. She traveled to New York City to claim her prize.Shaw has been teaching for 35 years, including 25 years in the Central Kitsap School District, but her students point out that she has retained enthusiasm. Several complimented her original project ideas.She says she likes complex designs and pizazz, said seventh grader Stanford Alexander Collins. He said his favorite class project so far was a paper box, because it was both practical and beautiful.I don't have that many boxes for storage, plus this one had my own design on it so I liked it.Ninth grader Kori Phillips said Shaw urges students to go out on a limb with their designs, and to add touches to make their pieces original.She has great ideas, Phillips said. When we were making masks she told us to be creative, to add glasses and crazy hair - anything to be unique.Shaw displays her students' best works in venues around the community, including Kitsap Community Federal Credit Union branches in Silverdale and Subase Bangor. One of the things she likes about her discipline is that kids are on equal footing and that creative students perform well in her class, regardless of grade point averages. She modifies her lesson plan for learning-disabled students so they, too, can get an appreciation for art. She stresses that art is an indispensable part of education. Lots of times art is viewed as a frill - but we do need it. When you get down to it, it's hard to separate art from life, said Shaw, who taught at Klahowya for three years before transferring this year.Her style of teaching is light on lecture and long on hands-on experience.I'm not a person who stands at the board and lectures except maybe one or two days a week, she said. The rest of the time, students are engrossed in their assignments and Shaw walks around to observe and offer help. Among the classes she teaches are crafts; drawing, design and painting; unified arts; and pottery. "