Ms. Art

May 24, 2009

Some of the teachers seemed a little uncomfortable as they stood before the crowd at the high school awards ceremony to announce the top student in each of their classes. Others were eager to have the stage for a while. Some were brief and business-like, giving just the facts, while others gave us a glimpse of their experiences teaching each group and what special spark they noticed in one or two particular students. But none celebrated his or her students as enthusiastically as Ms Art.

Ms. Art is Laura Rosenstein. She thinks the students will struggle to remember her name, probably due to years of helping lots of people remember her name. Is it Rosenberg? Lowenstein? She also wants the kids to know that art is her passion. She teaches it, and she creates and sells it.

Ms. Art told us how much she enjoys working with the different art classes and helped us understand how it feels to see their efforts and their progress and how they interact with each other. She told us how important art education is since it encourages creativity and self-expression. It was a sublimely subversive thing to say after most of the teachers had talked about their top students being future doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. She wasn’t talking about accomplishments or status. She was talking about personal development.

Then she told us there was no way to choose one top student from each class. She had decided to give her awards by different guidelines. I was wowed. This private Christian high school has an infatuation with orderliness and rules – lots and lots of rules. But she was going to do it her way, because her way made a lot more sense for her subject.

Ms. Art presented an award to the top artist in each medium she has introduced. She also presented an award to the top all-around 2-D (two-dimensional) and 3-D (three-dimensional) artists. She chose an up-and-coming 2-D and 3-D artist, too. As she went along, she told us she would have given even more awards if they had let her. I almost whooped out loud.

Then she gave the award that thrilled me the most. And honestly, I would be almost as impressed with her if she hadn’t done it. But when she announced the best all-around combined 2-D and 3-D artist, she said my son’s name.

He has always drawn and colored, using pencils, pens, markers, crayons, chalk, pastels, charcoals, and any kind of implement. He has chosen sketchbooks of different textures – just for fun – for years. He had private sketching and water color lessons during his middle school years. But he didn’t take art classes until high school, and then only for a couple of years.

Under Ms. Art’s encouragement and affection, he has tried all sorts of art media this year. Some creations are surprisingly good, and a few are spectacular flops. But he keeps trying, and he keeps being interested, and he keeps learning about the properties of different materials and figuring out how to do things better. He gets to experiment with creative ideas and physical materials and processes at the same time.

Ms. Art spoke to our family tonight after the baccalaureate service. Our son graduates this coming Friday. She wanted to thank us for donating to art club and to tell us how fond she is of our son. I already knew that, because of how he has been dedicated to creating different art pieces. I didn’t say it that way to her. I fumbled a bit, and then said the effect she has had on his life is indescribable because she ignited his lifelong playful interest in art into a full-blown passion.

I hope that thank-you resonated as deeply and as loudly as I intended.

She said she knows his first passion is soccer, but she still hopes he might consider being an art teacher some day. I let her know he has his life planned in broad stages. He wants to play soccer at a professional level if possible for as long as he can. Then he wants to spend time teaching English and helping communities in Latin America. Then he wants to teach Spanish and art in the United States. All along the way, he plans to continue creating art and learning new techniques. It’s such a customized career plan I wish I’d helped him design it!

In fairness, all the teachers probably enjoy seeing a spark of excitement in a student who is captivated by a subject. Many smiled proudly as they described students developing a love of British Literature, a fascination with anatomy and physiology, or deftness with differential equations. But they told us the value of these studies was in the kind of job they would help the students get some day.

Ms. Art knows the value of sparking a passion for creative work is creative work. I wanted to tell her I get it, I really do, even though I’m sure some people don’t. To me it makes as much sense as breathing.

I simplified my personal mission recently:

To ignite hearts and inspire other people to do the same.

I think I’ll look for her at graduation to share that. I’m sure she’ll understand.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey
Authentic Life Work & Self-Employment Coach


One Response to “Ms. Art”

  1. Laura Spicer Rosenstein on May 25th, 2009 3:42 pm

    Dear Mr. Coxsey,
    All I can say is wow! I am honored, almost speechless. This afternoon, I was checking to see if TAPPS still has my unlisted personal phone number come up when someone does a search on me. I saw my name listed on the Twisted Road website. Being unfamiliar with the website, I opened it up.
    Thank You for your kind and generous words, and more importantly, for the honor of teaching your son Ramon. He is an amazing young man. I know he will do great things with his life, regardless of the path he chooses. You and Mrs. Coxsey have done an amazing job raising this remarkable young man.
    Have a blessed and inspired day.
    Ms. Art

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