Autumn Adams of Ronan, Montana is a reading and social studies teacher at Ronan Middle School where she teaches Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes members.
In her Dreamstarter Teacher application, Autumn had told us that her school recently lost its art programs “which will have a devastating impact on our students.
“As a result, I plan to incorporate as much art as I can into my classroom, which will cost money,” she said. “Our students experience a significant amount of trauma which impacts their school environment and their ability to concentrate and focus on school.
“Art is a great way to allow them to demonstrate their knowledge in an expressive non-threatening way and try to help them with their emotional wellbeing at the same time.”
Following the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year, Autumn reported that she used her $500 Dreamstarter Teacher grant to purchase pastels, fabric, beads, paper for ledger art backgrounds, skin-toned colored pencils, drawing supplies, leather scraps, watercolor paints, and other art supplies.
“We used the grant by incorporating art into everyday subjects, she reported. “We have no art program for our students and many of them are talented.”
In addition to exposing her 40 students to a wide variety of mediums which provided them with the opportunity to express themselves through artistic creativity, “students used art as an outlet for healing trauma. I watched several students focus so deeply on their art that they couldn’t focus on their schoolwork,” she said.
However, she noted that her students were able to represent their learning through their artwork.
“Students gained confidence in themselves by creating art,” she said, adding that “They also made friendship bracelets which created friendships that may not have formed without the project.”
Autumn described how it made a big difference in the life of a student in particular who was struggling in school.
“His countenance at the beginning of the year was guarded and angry,” said Autumn. “He gained confidence – and even joy – as the year progressed and he learned trust and confidence in his abilities.
“I couldn’t even get him to pick up a pencil and complete a problem, let alone a page of problems, but by the end of the year he was completing more than I asked. I would ask for five problems and he would complete seven.
“It was awesome to see the change in him.”
And not only did her Dreamstarter Teacher project benefit her students, “This project impacted the community in big ways with boosting public support.
“Aunties and parents got to see what the students created and were proud of the work and learning they saw taking place.”