Art teacher brings ‘Moore’ opportunities to SDSA
Jamie Moore’s day begins at 4 a.m., when she takes time to write nine different art lessons for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. But that’s OK. She’ll get to watch those 450 students blossom over time at Southern Delaware School of the Arts.
“That’s the advantage of having such an age range. The little ones see what big kids do,” Moore said. “I get to grow them. And not many people get to do that.”
Even with decades of experience, Moore’s enthusiasm and new ideas earned her recognition as SDSA’s 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year.
“I teach creative thinking and problem-solving,” she said. “SDSA affords me the chance to be a risk-taker.”
Moore gets more class time than typical art teachers. But she also lets kids do great things.
“I think if kids are given an opportunity and a place to feel free … they’re just being themselves, and themselves are pretty interesting.”
Moore has seen parents in the audience with tears streaming down their faces because they had no idea their children were so talented. They’re just neighborhood kids, too, she said.
“It begs the question, how many kids are out there, but no one gives them the chance?” she said. “I’m so proud this school helps kids find themselves.”
Kids also look critically at their own work, she noted. When they assess their own art and efforts, Principal Neil Beahan said, they’re often more critical than she is.
But in discussing the students’ art, Beahan said he is impressed with student knowledge and “ease of use” of art terminology.
“The kids got it. The structure here is really good,” he said.
The classroom is quiet and calming, a respite from the nearby rock bands, choirs and dance class.
“Sometimes I’ll walk in the class and they don’t even [notice],” Beahan said.
Moore first entered SDSA as an artist in residence. As a project, each student in the school helped design and paint a triptych, which is still hanging in the cafeteria today. The mural shows students painting, performing and creating art, based on real students and staff.
Moore officially joined the staff about nine years ago.
Beyond the traditional art class, art history and set design, some art majors are working at a high school or collegiate level, Moore said.
She still creates new assignments each year. Students pretend to be film directors while casting, staging and photographing re-creations of famous paintings.
They create colorful “Life Strips” — long strips of paper, just a few inches wide, to represent their lives over 14 years.
“‘I’m happier than I thought I was,’” Moore has heard students say. “They also see that other kids had dark spots, too.”
This summer, students will practice drawing animals. In the fall, they’ll design mechanical limbs for animals, imagining how technology could help an injury or save a species. Humans already use pacemakers and prosthetics, Moore pointed out.
“I enjoy the opportunity to explore ideas with [students]. That’s why I teach.” Plus, she feels truly appreciated, she added.
“That’s why I’m here. I know I matter,” Moore said. “They feel safe [and] appreciate someone looking out for them.”
Moore lives near Rehoboth Beach, having retired from work in Anne Arundel County, Md.
“I always knew I was an artist. Teaching came later,” explained Moore, who studied theater, dance, music and art history, graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
She earned a master’s degree in counseling from Johns Hopkins University, as well as a postgraduate certification in family therapy. Her work has run the gamut: counseling, teaching, writing AP art curricula and presenting at national conferences.
Moore introduces students to as many ideas as possible, so they’ll have a bigger bank of information to grow upon. The best part of teaching, she said, is watching students grasp a new idea.
“I can see on their face when they make that connection, jump over that stream.”
She asks lots of questions, “trying to get them to think about themselves.”
“How many right answers can you come up with?” she explained. “That’s much more interesting to me.”
She said she’s amazed at the students’ courage to take creative risks each day. The students are highly sought after by high schools.
When not teaching or planning, she exercises and builds stamina to keep running around the school.
Moore thanked her fellow arts teachers and Beahan. She said it’s special to be surrounded by parents who are physically willing to improve the school, a principal who supports her and coworkers who put as much time and money into their classrooms as she does. (She said all teachers wish they had more funding to grow their programs.)
“I’ve never been a school where the teachers are so uniformly loving,” she said. “We make good things happen here,” Moore added. “When I say this is the best school I have ever been in, I mean it.”