Breaking the mold can be a challenge, especially when it involves implementing a new educational model. But local teachers Caroline Barnard and Kelsea Shaw at Isaiah T. Creswell Middle Magnet School of the Visual and Performing Arts did just that.
A few years ago, they developed a house system at the school, which is a social grouping of students based on their arts. It allows students an opportunity to interact and work with others from different grades who have similar interests.
“We saw a need for it when we saw that students just always wanted to be in our rooms,” said Shaw. “The 8th graders and the 5th graders get a chance to be in the same space and they get to know each other’s names. When they do see each other in the hallway they know each other. It does start to build more of a community, and everybody starts to feel like they belong more. The younger kids feel like they have someone they can look up to and I think that’s so important in middle school because you can feel so lonely and isolated as a kid.”
Barnard, who is a drama teacher, blends in educating students on art and theatre history along with practical skills. This can include assembling lights, soundboards, scriptwriting, film development, acting styles, and performance.
“Our school is the kind of place that celebrates the arts and celebrates our students and their passions,” said Barnard. “For my program, a lot of the students can come here and express themselves and also build a lot of confidence.”
It is an opportunity for mentorship and growth, especially if students come into the program nervous about trying something new in the arts.
“Seeing students and middle schoolers work through those base-level fears and become confident in themselves is one of the best things and one of the biggest blessings I could probably have as a teacher,” said Barnard. “If I could get students to where they are comfortable with public speaking, having comfort within themselves and being expressive, then I’ve done my job.”
Shaw, is a visual arts teacher who seeks to expose students to many forms of art including plaster sculptures, printmaking, and ceramics.
“Even if they don’t end up using art as a career or using it in any way in their career, getting them to see that it is a valuable tool that they can use throughout the rest of their lives,” said Shaw. “If they enjoy it, it can be useful for therapeutic reasons, stress-relief, and different things like that.”
Barnard and Shaw are also supportive of their students having more role models in the community, as Music City Baseball continues the pursuit of bringing a Major League Baseball franchise to the Nashville area.
“I had one student a couple of years ago who is now a 9th grader and is a baseball player,” said Barnard. “He would come and ask me, ‘do we have any plays about baseball? Can we read any plays about baseball? Do we have any scenes about baseball’? He was someone that I know if he had some major league baseball players to look up to that were in this city and he could go and see their games and it was right in their backyard or in the neighborhood, I think it would be something him and our students could really benefit from and enjoy,” said Barnard.
If you know of someone who is making a positive difference in our community, please let us know