Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Chelsea Miller’s goal as a teacher is to have students leave her classroom and realize they are capable of achieving their dreams.
Miller, an art teacher at Sullivan and West elementary schools in the Jefferson School District, said that art education is an essential part of reaching students and ensuring lifelong success.
“Art education allows students to add beauty to the world,” Miller said in an email. “It allows students to express themselves in ways they cannot in the traditional classroom setting. It allows students to practice self-care and invest in their wellness.
“Art education gives our students a creative outlet, while reinforcing core content competencies, and facilitating healthier minds.”
September 12-18 was celebrated across the country as National Arts in Education Week, a time to recognize the impact of the power of the arts in education. For Miller, Wisconsin’s 2020 Elementary School Teacher of the Year, that impact was not directly felt until she was a high school student. At the recommendation of her ceramics teacher, she slowly realized the unique transformative power of art, and was destined to pursue it as a career.
“Art education removes the standardization and allows for individual ideas to develop and flourish,” Miller said. “Students are not only allowed, but are often required to think outside the box in art class. Art builds creative, problem-solvers. Art class also promotes and builds upon those ever important ‘soft skills,’ like perseverance, adaptability, problem-solving, and communication.”
Miller feels a special responsibility to work with students outside of the classroom and help them find and reach their full potential. It’s that reason she found a passion in art when she was a student, and now participates in an array of extracurricular activities and programming to help students do the same. From starting a crochet club, a stained glass club, and construction club in her district, Miller seeks to show students firsthand the power and importance of art.
“For many kids, art access is what keeps them in school,” Miller said. “They struggle in more traditional academic areas, and yet shine in the art room. The art room is a place where they find they belong.”
With more than a decade of experience as an art teacher, Miller encouraged other art teachers to reach out to others to find ways to reach their goal of unlocking the potential in students.
“As art educators, we are often the only art teacher in the building; many across the district,” Miller said. “Make sure that you are connecting with other art educators that share your values. Also reach out to other departments within your buildings. You work with incredible people full of knowledge, use them! Never stop asking yourself what you want your students to learn.”