By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Lindsy Avenall grew up in Lapeer just east of Flint. She attended Lapeer Community Schools throughout her primary and secondary education. Avenall then attended Mott Community College and The University of Michigan-Flint campus. She studied art education and fine arts while immersing herself in the surrounding communities.
She studied ceramics, welding, furniture design, and even mural painting, which she participated in some of the Flint revitalization mural projects.
After graduating with degrees in art education and fine arts, Avenall stayed in the Lapeer community, where she taught art camps and assisted with gallery exhibits and events at Gallery 194. She worked with previous director, Jim Alt, who taught her how to prepare and install artwork for shows. Many of those skills carried over when she started her career as an art instructor.
Avenall moved to Washtenaw county in 2014, where she taught high school art and design at Arbor Preparatory High School and eventually elementary art at Ann Abor Public Schools. In the summer months, she teaches art camps at the Ann Arbor Art Center, where Jean Spindler gives her lots of opportunities to experiment with potential lessons. Those lessons often find their way back into her classroom at Pittsfield Elementary.
Avenall’s parents have always encouraged and supported her throughout her career. She has two sisters, a brother, and two nieces. While her family is spread out across the country, she enjoys spending as much time with them as possible, often enjoying Skype dinners and dance parties together. This summer her family will continue to grow as she plans to wed her fiancé, Steven Davidson. Together they share a home and a hermit crab named Jack.
What was always written on your report card in grade school?
I can’t remember but probably “very talkative.”
Was art your favorite subject?
Absolutely! Art was always a place that brought great comfort to me.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
During your first year of teaching, you are trying to establish yourself and develop long-lasting relationships so it was very meaningful to receive notes and letters from students along the way. Being that I started as a secondary teacher, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of my students graduate and go off into their lives while keeping a close relationship. It always makes me especially proud when they have decided to pursue the performing and visual arts.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now?
We are preparing for Youth Art Month, of which I’m a committee member. Youth Art Month is an annual observance in March designed to emphasize the value of art education for all youth. It is an opportunity to connect our community with our youth’s creativity to illustrate the importance of fostering artistry and innovation. Throughout the month of March, downtown will become a gallery of student artwork, a series of artistic activities will take place, and businesses will be offering special deals.
Here are some of the fun things going on…
- Downtown Art Scavenger Hunt w/ Prizes! The Art of Making Pizza @ Palio
- Oyster Shell Painting @ Real Seafood Co.
- Sit & Color Sundays @ Roeda Studio
- Chalk Drawing w/ David Zinn @ the Ann Arbor Art Center
- Jazz & Draw @ Le Bon Macaron
- Intro to Theatre @ the A2 Community Theatre Studio
- Public installations
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
I definitely remember my first year of teaching flying by and wondering if I would be able to get through my entire curriculum. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I had many great mentors along the way.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
During your first year of teaching you are trying to establish yourself and develop long lasting relationships so it was very meaningful to receive notes and letters from students along the way. Being that I started as a secondary teacher, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of my students graduate and go off into their lives while keeping a close relationship. It always makes me especially proud when they have decided to pursue the performing and visual arts.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?
It will all get done and everything will be okay.
What’s the most innovative idea you’ve started in your classroom?
The application of Artsonia, an online student art gallery, has been the most rewarding tool I have used in my classroom. The concept of documenting student work certainly isn’t new but technology is. The Artsonia app allows students to upload their own artwork, write artists’ statements, critique their work as well as their peers, receive immediate feedback from their instructor, and communicate with their families. Using Artsonia also serves as a fundraiser for our program and gives families an opportunity to see the progression of their student’s creativity over time. Digitalizing student artwork allows students and families to enjoy their art for years to come.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
The many wonderful teachers I had along the way, definitely inspired my journey as an educator. My elementary art teacher, Marty Norton, was incredibly impactful in curating my love for the arts. She was always so kind and encouraging and eventually became one of my mentor instructors during my student teaching. I have had wonderful instructors take time out of their lives to attend my dance recitals, trust me to nanny their children, and guide me through resumes and interviews. It’s only now as a teacher that I truly understand the extra investment that they chose to make in me.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
I think the best compliment as a teacher is to have students who want to help prepare materials for lessons, keep our art studio organized, and ask to come in during their non-instructional or recess time to create. To me, that says that my students recognize the art room as a space that is their own. They want to care for it and exist in it because it brings calm, peace, and happiness to their day and to their life.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
Both at AAPS and throughout my career, I have commuted between multiple schools, I have taught art on a cart, or have had to share my working space and materials with other instructors. While every teaching environment has always presented challenges, I think art teachers are some of the most flexible. Remaining flexible allows me to focus on my desire to continue to grow and advocate for the arts despite the many challenges that come my way.
Describe an average workday.
An average workday consists of planning projects and lessons, ordering and maintaining supplies, monitoring student achievement, familiarizing students with artists and art history, sending emails, attending meetings, community outreach, and trying to find time to use the restroom.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
The happiest part of my day is probably hanging out with my After Care kiddos. They always want to help in the art room and I have this unique opportunity to spend one-on-one time with them that I don’t always get throughout the day or week. We take down and set up displays, photograph artwork, prepare and organize materials, develop our art centers in the classroom, talk about art and our art-making experiences, and just hang out. I get to hear about the fun things that are happening in their lives outside of school and what exciting things are coming up.
What’s unique about working at Pittsfield?
Pittsfield is the smallest school in AAPS, so it is definitely a close community. There is a unique ability to connect with students and families in a way that you might not in a larger building.
Is your home filled with art?
Being an art educator leaves little time to create my own art. However, I do have some work that I have created throughout the years and artwork from one of my favorite artists, Tyler Voorhees.
What’s your favorite medium in which to work?
I am trained in 3-Dimensional art and design with a concentration in ceramics and metal.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
Being able to witness personal and creative growth first hand.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
An eight-hour workday does not exist in education. This means I am working before and after school multiple days a week, through my lunch, on the weekends, and during our holiday and summer breaks. The success of a teacher’s career is viewed through the achievements of their students and we work hard to ensure every student we work with can be successful in some way or another. Therefore, the time that we do get to be with our friends and families to reset and focus on our personal interests/hobbies is truly priceless time.
How do you spend your summers?
I try to balance my summers. I know that I need that time to reset but I also use that time for professional development opportunities and working as a summer art camp instructor.
What’s most exciting about your personal life?
I am excited to announce that I will be getting married this summer!