Sharon Lee Mitchell
Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
Middle & High School Visual Arts and Graphic Design Teacher
How are you working to increase equity in education and opportunity for students in your school?
A couple of years ago, a representative from Farmers Insurance called me with an idea of creating hero cards for the NASCAR driver they sponsored – Kasey Kahne. It became a contest and every six weeks, Farmers and Mr. Kahne would provide a new theme. I involved all art classes and art teachers; every six weeks we would submit the students’ designs where the Farmers team and Mr. Kahne would choose one to be mass produced. These cards were passed out at NASCAR races all over the country. Each winning student’s design, five in total, won $500 and national recognition with their information printed on the cards. Mr. Kahne came to Paseo and spoke to the entire student body and we received 20 tablets and a scanner. It was a very proud moment for me, the students, the school and the district.
What message about public education do you want to share?
I know that our students have as much, if not more, talent than any other student body regardless of where they came from or how privileged they are. I believe the biggest issue with public education is equity and opportunity. Suburban areas, where the families are wealthier and can afford more, seem to have newer facilities and are typically equipped with current state of the art technology and equipment because they have more money to work with. Given the opportunity, our students do excel and I have been told more than once that my Graphic Design students are more advanced than other students when it comes to their knowledge of computer design in an entry-level college graphic design course. I try to express to my students that they can achieve any goal as long as they are determined and disciplined and never give up. Mistakes are learning opportunities – in art they can be happy mistakes – those are the ones you work with and turn into a masterpiece.