Kate Baker is a celebrity of sorts. Every day when she walks into her place of employment, she is greeted by delighted screams from her fans: a group of elementary school students at Beacon Hill’s Maple Elementary in Seattle, Washington. Why is Baker so popular with her students? It’s very simple: she’s the art teacher.
“They’re always so excited,” Baker said about her students. “They want to know if they have art that day. Because they get joy from it.”
So it seems somewhat wrong and confusing that one of the most popular teachers at Maple Elementary is fearful for her job due to budget cuts in the district. Also, many schools are feeling the pressure to place more emphasis on math and reading skills, which means that any extra funds go to these programs instead of to the art programs.
“If your school has money or if you have a principal who’s a real proponent of the arts, then you get it,” said Baker about which schools have arts departments. “And if you’re not in one of those two groups, then you don’t.”
Luckily, Seattle Public Schools will not have to face the decision of whether to have an arts department or not as often now, thanks to the promise of a $1,000,000 grant from The Wallace Foundation. The school district must develop a districtwide art curriculum for grades K-12 by January of next year in order to actually receive the funds.
Some people might doubt that these funds should be spent on arts education. However, the arts can have enormous social and emotional benefits for students.
Take Robert Eyerman, for example. Eyerman was very shy in middle school and often he “wouldn’t have even had the confidence to pick up the phone.” However, when he started taking break-dancing classes, he began to develop more confidence in himself. Now, Eyerman is a junior at Bellevue College, has a 3.6 GPA, and plans to study medicine.
Eyerman is not just an exception to the rule. Personally, I enjoyed my art classes more than my other classes when I was in middle school too, and these classes are what inspired me to start writing, a pastime that has brought me a lot of joy over the years.
I am very excited for the opportunity that students in Seattle have in front of them. Let’s hope that Seattle Public Schools meets the requirements for this grant and every student can have a future with art classes in it.
Via The Seattle Times