In the run up to the announcement of BCSD's 22'-23' Teacher of the Year, we spoke to our 21'-22' year winners about their commitment to teaching and what makes Baldwin School District stand out. This blog series highlights those incredible teachers and what they do to make a difference.
After completing her travels with AmeriCorp, and working among those in need with Habitat for Humanity, Wichelle Anne Norton knew that there had to be a way to transfer the emotional catharsis of artwork into something that was pragmatic to those in economic need.
She recalled the instructors she’d had as a child at Marvin Pittman Laboratory School in Statesboro, GA, where she had such a close relationship with her art teachers that she can still recall their names to this day. “In their classes,” she said, “I learned so much about the world through art history. I learned that art has the power to communicate thoughts and feelings,” Norton decided that she would provide students with the same level of commitment and passion that her teachers had provided her, so she pursued K-12 Art Education Certification and began work as an art teacher at Lakeview Primary.
“in the classroom, when you’re teaching lessons about things like integrity and responsibility and kindness, it’s important to make clear that those are not only qualities for the school, but for life outside of the classroom.”
“One of the things I’d like to see is more emphasis in vocational and job training,” Norton said, “Even though I am a primary school teacher, I feel like art is a great introduction into vocational education.” In her art class, kids use their hands and become invested in connecting physical work with mental processes and speaking through actions. “Art is a kind of gateway to vocational training,” Norton said, “the kids learn how to weave. They use their hands. They connect what’s in their brain to their hands. They make things real.”
For Norton’s students, there is no such thing as a mistake. Only another opportunity to grow. Since she joined the Baldwin County School District in 2006, Norton has ushered countless students along their way to becoming better weavers of their own futures, and a large part of doing that has been to connect, not only art to vocation, but art to family as well. “I think there’s different ways to connect your kids with the community,” she said, “in the classroom, when you’re teaching lessons about things like integrity and responsibility and kindness, it’s important to make clear that those are not only qualities for the school, but for life outside of the classroom.”
In addition to doing art shows through Allied Arts, Norton has hosted a project for the past few years which brings together the families of special education students to host an “Art Night” in which everyone comes together in a relaxed environment to create art. “I feel like that’s community building,” said Norton, “with the parents and the teachers and the students. That’s how art can transcend the walls of the school.”
In facilitating the joining of art with vocation and art with community, Wichelle Norton demonstrates the amazing ability for art to bridge, not only worlds, but time as well, since she’s now been with BCSD long enough to see students come through Lakeview Primary to graduation from Baldwin High School. Those students carry the connections with them every day, and the strength of those connections, vocations, communities, and families makes for a better Baldwin, a better Georgia, and a better world.