Art class gets new life in Hayden

Elementary school hires formerly retired teacher to lead art program

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— If you ask Tyler Hockaday, snowmen should wear cowboy hats, and paintbrushes always should be within reach.

"Hey, where'd all the paintbrushes go?" Tyler, a first-grader at Hayden Valley Ele--mentary School, asked Tuesday afternoon. He was sitting at a table covered in newspaper and crayon boxes, busily drawing snowmen wearing cowboy hats in a blizzard as he made homemade wrapping paper for the Christmas Crafts Festival on Dec. 15.

All around him, other first-graders worked on creations of their own. They were surrounded by posters of color wheels, tubs of markers and books about Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. First-grader Brooke Munden looked up from her pink and purple wrapping paper to tell Tyler that more paintbrushes were near the sink.

Before this year, a scene such as the one described above did not exist at the school.

This year, the school hired retired teacher Eileen Coffelt to be its part-time art teacher. She conducts a series of 40-minute classes on Tuesdays, during which she'll work with all of the school's first- through fifth-graders.

"We have never had a separate art teacher -- art has always been in the classroom," building administrator Rhonda Sweetser said.

What formerly was the school's reading room has been converted to an art room. Crates of books still line one wall, but Coffelt said art is what the room was designed for.

"This is one of few rooms that has a sink and a tile floor," Coffelt said.

And it's a good thing -- as the first-graders carried pails of paint-stained water to the sink, several colorful spills decorated the floor.

This fall, students at the school created collages, mosaics, line pencil drawings and weavings in art class. An exhibit of work from students of all grades was on display for a month at Hayden's Mountain Valley Bank, Coffelt said.

On Tuesday, first-graders did a little bit of everything.

"Today is mixed-media day," Coffelt told the eager students. "That means you get to choose what you want to work with."

For Jessika Hock--ett, 7, the choice was "craypels" -- coloring tools that are a combination of crayons and pastels.

"My favorite part (of art class) is drawing stuff and then putting watercolor over it," Jessika said as she colored in a gingerbread man standing in front of a blue sky. "I really like painting."

For Coffelt, the opportunity to teach art is a dream.

"I have an art certificate, I've just never had the privilege of teaching it," she said. Before retiring five years ago, Coffelt taught in three states, including 10 years teaching second and third grades at Hayden Valley Elementary School.

This fall, Coffelt said, she has taught students about famous artists and elements of art, including colors, lines and shapes.

She also has taught her students not to worry about making mistakes.

As first-graders bustled around the room in boots and snowpants, Grace Wilkie approached Coffelt with a very important question.

"Can I paint over it?" Grace asked, holding up the drawing of Santa Claus she had made on her wrapping paper.

"You certainly can," Coffelt said. "Just roll up your sleeves."

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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