By Joan Goodchild, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – In first grade, group reading time usually involves a teacher sitting in the front of the class, reading a story and showing students the pictures to accompany the text. But recently, the first-graders in Sally Lividini's art class at Spring Street School in Shrewsbury were not allowed to look.
The exercise involved having the students listen to her read a poem by comedian and author Jeff Foxworthy called “What do You See?” and then asking them to draw their own interpretations of the words.
The children clearly enjoyed themselves, and found many ways to illustrate what they see in the sky, a pond, lakes, and in trees.
“Oh, you made apples in your tree and someone hanging from it,” Lividini noted, praising one of the students she passed by.
“It's interesting to see all of the interesting interpretations,” said Lividini, who, at the end, let the kids see the actual illustration.
Just a few minutes before class ended, Lividini hit the “easy button,” a little red device made famous by office-supply chain Staples. An electronic voice said “That was easy!”
“You know what that means – it's time to clean up,” Lividini said to the class and the kids quickly went into action and picked up art supplies, preparing to leave.
“They all have unique ways of doing things,” she said as she waved goodbye to them heading out the door. “That's what makes teaching so much fun.”
It's Lividini's easy way with kids and her dedication to youth interest in art that recently earned her the honor of being named the Elementary Art Teacher of the Year by the Massachusetts Art Education Association. In addition to her class work, she said the award also honored her involvement in the Youth Art Month program at the Worcester Art Museum. The annual program makes it possible for many young area artists to have their work showcased at the museum.
Lividini's love of art and her career in teaching has been on a varied course over the years.
A teacher many years ago in Shrewsbury, her position was eventually cut during difficult budget times in the 1980's, and then she went into graphic design for several years. Eventually, in 2000, she found her way back into teaching with a job in Fitchburg, and then moved back to the Shrewsbury district in 2004.
At the Spring Street School, she finds that the community is inspiring and appreciates her work at a time when many art programs are facing cutbacks.
“I really love the school; they are very supportive of the arts here,” she said.
Lividini explained that she incorporates lessons from the general curriculum into her art lessons, but hopes students come with the knowledge that art is a place for fun, as well as education.
“Here, they have freedom and can make the choice to experiment a bit,” she said. “I hope this is both an educational and safe environment for them.”
Lividini added that, more than any award she could receive is the satisfaction she gets when a student shows a passion for arts.
“The greatest thing for me is when I teach something and a mom comes to me later and says “Oh, she has been doing this at home.” When something I teach is going home with them, that is very special to me.”