You could get lost in another world in Jimi Herd’s classroom: You might find yourself in a forest of chia-pet sculptures or on the seventh hole of a miniature papier-mâché golf course. Maybe you’ll be in the midst of a recycled-object boat race or about to take flight in a woven parachute. “Art is found in more places than any of us realize,” says the Virginia elementary art teacher. “We just need to break down those notions of ‘I can’t do this’ and remind ourselves that art is unique to each person who creates it.” Herd also works closely with classroom teachers to infuse the visual arts into other subjects. “It’s so beneficial to both subjects when you can understand connections.”

The Basics

School: Swift Creek Elementary School, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Career Path: “I began college with the intent of pursuing a career in the arts but never quite found an avenue that worked for me until I switched my major to art education. It fit both my need to create as an artist and my desire to help and volunteer in others’ lives.”

Teaching Philosophy: “I believe creativity is truly a fundamental part of life. Teaching people to embrace their artistic side encourages us all to be better problem solvers, courageous risk-takers, effective communicators, and more aware of culture and diversity.”

Cool Project

Papier-mâché mini-golf: “For one of my favorite projects, fifth-grade students created large-scale papier-mâché sculptures that functioned as working miniature-golf holes. As part of the design process, each student developed his or her idea around a specific theme that integrated a challenging obstacle for players. The sculptures, ranging from animals to objects and places to people, were then displayed during an after-school event at which parents and students played the course, complete with putters and score cards! I taught this lesson primarily to teach students about design in terms of process, craftsmanship, troubleshooting, and results.”

3 Art Add-Ons

TES Teach: A great online tool to create presentations for lessons by pulling together images, videos, text, and other resources.

Document camera: A must-have for demonstrations involving clay, collage, painting, and drawing. Record and save for students who are absent.

School library: Many times I find inspiration for art lessons in the pages of a book. Also, there’s no substitute for a great story to open up imaginations.

How can art help kids who struggle academically?

“Art encourages self-awareness and helps them build lifelong skills and make sense of the world around them in their own way.”



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Photo: Courtesy of Jimi Herd