Having fun in art

Sweet, humbling and heartfelt were some of the words David Russell, art teacher for Walkertown Elementary School, used to describe about how he felt when he learned he had been named the school’s Teacher of the Year.
Russell grew up in Kernersville and graduated from East Forsyth High School in 1987. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he found his first teaching position in East Bend, traveling around to various schools throughout the week for 17 years.
“I came to Walkertown Elementary School in 2014,” he said, recalling that he played on the school’s fields when he played football for the Raiders as a kid. “I felt at home when I got here.”
Russell added that the assistant principal’s mother was his science teacher when he attended middle school at what is now known as Glenn High School, he went to school with the librarian at the school, and the PE teacher’s husband lived in his neighborhood when he was a kid.
Russell said that while he had an influential teacher that steered him toward art, he chose to become a teacher because he likes kids.
“I thought I would rather hang out with kids than adults. I like the energy children have and we have fun in class,” he said. “It’s also fun to see them grow up and learn, and it’s fun to see them in the morning getting dropped off and knowing you can start their morning off in a good way.”
He said one of his college instructors, Chip Holton, was influential in helping him decide to go into art.
“He was a great instructor and he had a great time teaching art,” he stated.
Along with teaching students in his classroom, Russell said he helps with third through fifth grade drop off in the mornings, watches students after school, is the specialist representative for the PTA, is in charge of the school’s sign at the front of the building, and helps with landscaping in the summer.
As a teacher, Russell said he likes to be hands-on and tries to make art fun, while letting students work at their own pace.
“I like to think about what I like to do at that age since I am internally 12,” he laughed.
What Russell said he likes most about being a teacher is the kids.
“I like to see when they have learned something new, and I like being a guide to their creativity,” he stated.
Russell said the students do a lot of different things in his class, such as painting by blowing paint through straws, using yarn, folding origami, zentangles (making repetitive designs inside of their initials) with fifth graders, and more.
“One of my favorite things is seeing the kindergarteners’ reactions when I mix colors. They love seeing when blue and yellow make green,” he said. “I also like being able to be one of the bright moments in their day because we’re having fun.”
Russell said a lot of funny things have happened to him as a teacher, from falling out of his chair and being taped to a wall, to having pies thrown in his face, being hit with water balloons, and wearing a dress to a beauty pageant fundraiser.
When his students look back on having him as a teacher, Russell said he hopes they remember that he always had a smile on his face.
“I also hope they remember that being creative is fun and that trying to help others is very rewarding,” he shared.
When he isn’t teaching art, Russell enjoys spending time with his family and being creative.
When he learned that he had been named WES Teacher of the Year, he was humbled.
“I thought it was sweet, humbling and heartfelt. It gives you a warm feeling inside to know the people you work with know you love your job, and that children are bring praised and nurtured at the school,” he said. “I feel blessed to be around people that are that thoughtful.”

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