Updated: Friday, 23 Apr 2010, 4:58 PM MDT
Published : Friday, 23 Apr 2010, 4:58 PM MDT
GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) - Steve Heil teaches art to pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students at Juan de Oñate Elementary in Gallup-McKinley County Public Schools. Selection team members described his classroom as a working art studio that would adequately serve adult artists. His colleagues describe the impact of his art instruction on students in their classroom, as Heil works to integrate what the children are learning in art with the language, math, science and social studies they are learning in their primary classroom.
Student-created murals decorate the outside of the school, and art from Heil’s students can be found in city hall and in the offices of many businesses in Gallup. Principal Rachel Rodriguez described Heil as “a team player as well as a strong leader, “ greatly admired and respected by his colleagues. Heil has also achieved National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification.
“For some time, I had been frustrated with my own teaching and had become convinced that I wasn't doing enough for my students," said Heil. "I wanted to see produced in my art room not imitations of grown-up art, but real kid art, as authentic and inspiring as the stuff on wide-ruled filler paper that children often made at home and brought in to show me. First I became a student of authentic kid art, paying tuition in the form of art material prizes for the young artists who brought me the good stuff they made at home. Kids earned points to spend on prizes as I collected their independent work. I paid close attention to the most prolific, visionary, and creative master artists among them, surprisingly not the happiest kids in the art classroom setting. Ironically, a traditional art program tended to train the artistic vision out of some students. Then last spring I discovered an approach to art education that changed the game. Called Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB), it focuses on teaching students to explore ideas of their own, collaborate, create, reflect on and improve in their work, and it results in 99.9% student engagement in a choice-based classroom. My students' activity in class resembles independent studio work, and my role has changed to allow me to spend the majority of class time supporting and tracking student progress toward learning targets, no matter what their level of accomplishment. Last fall one of my hardest to reach and cagiest students, a fourth-grader, absorbed the training I offered the class on cardboard sculpture and began to hatch an idea during his first studio time in that center, though it would take weeks to accomplish. I marveled at the way he put to use the corner bracing I had just taught as a way to strengthen cardboard connections, and I reassured him that the cardboard center would still be available to him for many weeks so he could realize his long-term plan: to produce a line of cardboard helicopter sculptures that would capture the imagination of his peers and launch his first enterprise. In my art room, he was the engineer and the CEO of a toy helicopter company, and he definitely was achieving the state standards for the visual arts in the process. I had lost a certain amount of control about when students learned what in my classroom, but when I looked around and saw all of the students choosing centers that matched their vision for their own work, I realized the time had come for this in my classroom.”