Donna Scheer is teaching third-graders to mix colors. She wants to see orange, green and violet.
"And not just orange," she tells the class. "But maybe a red orange and a yellow orange."
The class immediately comes alive, mixing paint and decorating their self-portraits with some interesting colors.
The art teacher at Lake Forest Hills Elementary has a way of inspiring the children to find their creative side.
"It's just something that is in them, and she brings it out," Principal Carolyn P. Bailie said. "She's just got some kind of touch."
But the magic she works in her classroom has earned her more than praise from her own school. Mrs. Scheer has won two prestigious honors in the past year.
In November, she was named Georgia Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Georgia Art Educators Association. Last summer, she was named a finalist for 2004 Barbie Arts Teacher of the Year, which came from a $5,000 award from the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Arts Education Initiative. She uses the money for school supplies.
The Barbie award came after an inspiring letter from one of her pupils, Chelsea Medeiros. In the nomination letter, Chelsea said her arts teacher doesn't treat pupils in special education any differently.
"She even asked the deaf ed teacher to teach her signs for colors and other words to help (another pupil)," the 11-year-old said. "She tries to teach us to help the needy while giving us an art lesson. ... One time, we made bowls for the soup kitchen auction."
Mrs. Scheer said her secret to success is to fill notebooks with "really dynamite art projects for every grade level." She teaches pupils about ceramics, weaving, painting and art history. She also offers some projects with clay.
"There is not a child anywhere that doesn't like working with clay. It is fun," she said.
Mrs. Scheer started as a part-time teacher at the school, funded by the Parent-Teacher Association. But five years ago, the district agreed to fund her as a full-time teacher.
She has continued to integrate her arts program with other subjects, such as combining math concepts of symmetry with art drawings. But she teaches her children that art is different than other subjects, where the answer to the problem is always the same.
"In art, it is very different. Like in math, it is this answer. And in science, it is this answer. But in my class, I don't want yours to look like anybody else's," she said. "Because when you go out into the working world, you have to be a creative thinker."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family: husband, Henry, owner of Mally's on Seventh; daughters, Anna, 16, junior at Westside High School, and Mallary, 20, student at the University of Georgia
Awards: named as a finalist for 2004 Barbie Arts Teacher of the Year with Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Arts Education Initiative; named Georgia Elementary Art Educator of the Year, Georgia Art Education Association.
Quote: "I think art can help you in a lot of areas of life, to have that confidence and that ability to think on your own."