Artist and art teacher Amy Marsh finds inspiration in many places, but especially in her students.
“I saw it when my student was drawing a portrait of a child from Uganda. She exclaimed ‘I feel like I know her,’” said Marsh, who teaches at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary. “I caught a glimpse when a boy who struggled with life, academics and acceptance came in EVERY day at lunch to work on his ceramic whistle until it worked!”
But as much as she draws inspiration from her students, Marsh also fosters it within them.
"For over half of my life, I have turned to Ms. Marsh for any and all advice on art,” said former student Max Speyer, who is now in high school. “In the classroom, she excels at working with students one-on-one and tailoring instruction to each of their needs. She has inspired me to pursue a career in art through her passion of working with kids and her incredible talent. I am lucky to have her for a mentor."
That ability to inspire and connect with students is one of the reasons Marsh was recently named Colorado Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Colorado Art Educators Association (CAEA). She was also selected because of her leadership in art education; she has written art curriculum for the state of Colorado and authored several articles for art educators.
Marsh is also a proponent of connecting art to the real world and providing service-learning opportunities for her students. She recalls one student who forged a plan to connect an impactful art project with a school clothing drive for the homeless. Her students have also created portraits of disadvantaged children through The Memory Project, a nonprofit organization that invites art teachers and their students to create portraits for youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents and extreme poverty.
Marsh also brings guest artists into her classroom to broaden her students’ knowledge and perspective. Watch this video to see rock artist Travis Ruskus working with Red Hawk Ridge students earlier this year.
Rigor is also important in Marsh’s classroom.
“Art is a different way to access information,” Marsh said. She tries to connect art with what they’re doing in their other classes and what they experience in the world outside school. She believes what her students are doing in art will help them become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. That, she says, is the best part of her job.
“The inspiration I see and can foment in these kids…I want them to be creators and art lovers…creators and problem solvers and different thinkers in their community. That’s how I can contribute.”