Tina Logan’s art classroom at the Albert D. Lawton middle school would bring back nostalgic memories for any adult that remembers the creative, colorful art classes of their youth.
The back wall is full of windows which let in the sunlight reflecting off the maple tree whose leaves have turned bright yellow, illuminating the room in a soft, golden glow. Old art projects sit on every surface, from papier-mâché pumpkins to spaceship sculptures. Flags in all colors, reminiscent of Nepalese prayer flags, hang from the ceiling and match the rainbow crayon and paint smears on the well-worn art tables below.
On a cool October morning, those tables are filled with about 15 sixth-graders attaching eyes, ears, noses and other shapes to their clay “ugly mugs” with a bustling, frenetic energy that could only be found in a middle school art class.
“I need more arms!” Logan exclaimed as she moved from student to student, showing them how to score the clay to better attach the features they created. “I wish I were an octopus!”
Nominated by her colleagues, Logan was awarded with the Vt. Art Teachers Association’s 2019 Art Educator of the Year award last month, which included a $300 grant for art supplies or educational opportunities. From the outpouring of support from current and former students and colleagues in a video made to celebrate the award, it’s clear Logan is treasured in her community.
“Tina Logan’s kindness, empathy, and love of teaching make her a beacon of light in our community,” said ADL librarian Caitlin Classen. “She’s one of those rare, magical teachers that changes the lives of not only her students but her colleagues.”
Staff assistant Barb Edwards echoed Classen’s words and said she’s impressed with Logan’s teaching style and kindness toward everyone around her.
After a few minutes of running around, Mrs. Logan picked up a pair of small handbells and tapped them together, releasing a bright chime that immediately brought the noise level down in the room. She’s used the bells for years to help focus the students who can get riled up and distracted easily.
Logan would be the first to call her classroom a “creative chaos.” But she likes it that way.
“It’s not a quiet place,” she said. “It’s a place where there will be many different mediums and things being explored at the same time.”
Logan said there are core standards she has to teach in her classroom, like technical studio skills and specific mediums so her students are prepared for the future. But, she said, with no standardized tests (thank goodness), she gets to change it up a lot.
“I try to blend the two of just hitting our standards and getting all of the techniques and concepts down,” Logan explained. “At the same time, I like it to be a space where everybody gets excited about creating something and feels like an artist and to be able to explore a lot of different things and have it be where there’s not just one answer; there’s lots of different ways to approach art.”
At the middle school level, Logan teaches TAB, teaching for artistic behavior, a choice-based art education where students get to discover different mediums and what it means to be an artist. She said her favorite part of her job is developing relationships with her students as they get more invested in art.
Logan said she has students coming to her on their breaks or after school to continue working on projects with her or to learn new skills outside of the classroom. She said seeing their enthusiasm for creating grow and develop as they get older is exactly what she loves about her job.
Logan has been an art teacher since she graduated from Syracuse University in 1987. Though her husband’s job in Burlington initially brought her to Essex Jct., she said the community she has become a part of is what makes her job so great.
“Our parents have always placed a high value on the importance of the arts,” she said. “And I just have always felt supported here in this community with my program, so I really felt blessed.”
Before she was teaching full time in the village, Logan split her time between multiple districts, including Shelburne, South Hero and Essex. Her dream was always to teach in the community where she lived, and when offered positions in both Shelburne and Essex, she said the decision was easy.
“I wanted to stay with my community,” she said. “So I’m happy, it’s been good.”
It’s obvious her students are happy, too. Benjamin Baker said he really likes her art class and his favorite project was the papier-mâché pumpkins. Cassidy Goulette said she loves all the different projects Logan teaches and said, “she likes to keep things moving. It’s never boring.”
While Logan bounced from student to student amidst the uproarious chatter in the classroom, it’s not hard to tell she loves her job, despite its challenges.
“I’m lucky. I think I have the best job in the school,” Logan said, laughing. “It’s chaotic, you feel like a ping pong ball, it’s busy and it’s kinda crazy, but at the same time, my day goes so fast, and it’s so fun.”