The Art of teaching art

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2005

SWEET WATER – She has three children, hosts a German exchange student and is a dedicated fan of the Sweet Water Bulldogs. Yet, DeAnn Hilderbrand still finds time to teach 18 art classes to Sweet Water’s fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

It all started when Hilderbrand began volunteering with the school’s former art instructor about three years ago.

“I am in my second year teaching. I volunteered for a year before I became a teacher,” she said. “But me and my kids were always into painting and music.”

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Hilderbrand said she enjoys teaching the art course because it is fun watching the students learn.

“It’s amazing to watch them,” she said. “I know their teachers see a difference in their regular schoolwork because art opens their minds up to so much more.”

She said her main objective is to show her students there is more to life than working in a fast food restaurant. Thus, she adds art projects to her lesson plans that may help them decide a career.

“We did a CD cover project where I wanted them to design an album cover to show them how they could be a graphic design artist or something.”

Students also create paintings, optical illusions, city landscapes, jewelry and tie-dye t-shirts.

“I try to find sayings and rhymes for them to put on the posters they make on Spirit Day,” she said. “There’s one that has a police car and it says ‘if the Bulldogs were any faster, they’d get a ticket.'”

Hilderbrand said the year’s best project was the “Rainbow of Hope.”

“Each child designed a rainbow with a pot of gold underneath, which was used as a pocket to insert money for hurricane victims. Each child donated money and it was sent to Mississippi Children’s Home Services,” she said. “The children were very happy to be a part of helping other children in need.

We received a very nice thank you letter from Christopher M. Cherney, the chief executive officer.”

For Halloween the children painted pumpkins using art supplies donated by Law Lamar and the Friends of Hale County.

According Hilderbrand, Lamar has donated paint, art smocks, yarn, clay, an easel, a dry rack, picture frames for the children to decorate, pastels, markers, mosaic pieces and there is still more to come.

“If it weren’t for him we’d do a lot of drawing,” she said. “We are so thankful to him because my students like to paint.”

Hilderbrand is thankful for Stan Stokely, Mike Bedsole and the parental volunteers who help with messy art projects, as well.

“It’s hard to keep up with 20-30 kids with paintbrushes,” she said.

She also gets help from the school’s PAL students, students who are permitted help teachers when they have free time.

One of Hilderbrand’s PAL helpers is her very own daughter, Danielle, 14.

Although she wants to be an optometrist, Danielle said she likes to paint and attempt to draw.

As a member of Sweet Water’s band, Danielle said her drawing skills aren’t as good as those of her younger brother, who also attends Sweet Water, and mother.

Danielle also believes that her mother’s job is making a difference in the students’ lives.

Whitley, Hilderbrand’s 9-year-old son, said he enjoys his mother’s class because it gives him the opportunity to get out of regular classes.

“I like to get out of class,” he said. “But I like to do art.”

Whitley said his favorite part pf his mother’s art class is drawing.

“Both of them have always been exposed to art,” Hilderbrand said.

Hilderbrand has even taught her students a one-stroke painting technique that allows for easier blending and color mixing. She also said she has a system of comparing the shapes of new objects to something the students are familiar with when drawing and painting.

“A lot of them will look at something and say they can’t do it,” she said. “But like when we were painting lions, I told them to make a six for its hind legs.”

The Hilderbrand family has opened its home an exchange student from Hong Kong and is currently hosting a student from Germany.

Hilderbrand said she and her children are learning about a full history of what happened with the Nazis and have been exposed to a different way of life from the two exchange students.

“We’ve learned so much from the boys,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how different they live.”

Hilderbrand said the one thing that definitely stands out in her mind about her temporary family members was their educational background.

“It’s amazing what these other countries are teaching their children at a very young age,” she said. “If the U.S. doesn’t do something about our schools, we are going to be left behind.”

With a child in the band and two on the football team, including the German exchange student, Hilderbrand stays busy during the school year, but she stills finds time to open the doors to the world of art for her family and her students.