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FMS art students Rachel Hightman, Kacey Hughes, and Sarah Spitler. Last year, with the new high school opening and the school system shook up with shifting grades and relocating, middle school art teacher Marguerite Kritzer wasn’t sure how things would eventually work at the new middle school. Nearly six months later, Kritzer is pleased with her surroundings, students and the new system, stating she has more time to teach art and that pleases her the most.
“I am thrilled to be working with 5th grade again. I taught to grades K-5 in Prince William County for my first four years of my career. I love the energy and the curiosity that comes with working with this age group,” said Kritzer, who used to teach sixth, seventh and eighth. “I do miss the 8th graders. There is a level of sophistication that is missing with the loss of the Art I classes. However, these 7th graders have far exceeded my expectations. They certainly deserve the same opportunities that my 8th graders enjoyed in their art classes. I wish their time was not so limited. They only have art for one semester, and their classes are only an hour long.”
The only challenge Kritzer sees is that the class periods are much shorter. Although she believes that the time period is more appropriate, she still misses the results that longer classes can provide. She states that her ten to seventeen day rotation for 5th and 6th graders, the cornerstone of her new curriculum, also poses a challenge.
“It is my challenge to make sure that students and teachers are not seeing the same projects repeated over and over again. At the same time, I want to make sure I am emphasizing and reinforcing the same things for each group so that all reach the next level with the same advantage,” she said.
She is also experimenting with content with the seventh grade.
“I began the year with emphasis on projects and media, and I am spending more time this semester reinforcing the content through projects and media. For all grades and classes I have added pre-tests and post-tests to measure growth. The students are doing an outstanding job applying what they have learned.”
Kritzer doesn’t sit back and let the day go by, her energy and imagination shows in the projects her students execute. Reminiscing about some of her past art teachers - who failed to provide her with learning experiences she felt would have been beneficial. She realizes art education was different and so were the teachers when she was learning. Those missed experiences and all that she brings to the classroom is what she shares with her students.
Though art seems like freedom with limits, there are students that have surprised Kritzer, like Nate Zharmack seemed little interested in art but Kritzer had faith in him. Today, Zharmack has come a long way. A senior at FCHS, he is eager to pursue art in college. Kritzer is excited that she was one of the few that planted a seed.
Regarding those students she feels have potential, she said, “I could never begin to do my students justice in this area. There are so many great students to name, Reanna DeVarennes, a 7th grade girl, is a stand-out for her electrifying use of contrast and completely original solutions for every project. Newlin Humphrey is a master at capturing the beauty of horses in her drawings. Mia Gonzalez adds whimsy and up-to-the minute charm to her work that reflects what students love (Minecraft, Invader Zim).”
Delegate Rob Bell (R.) will be featuring fifteen of the students’ works from all grade levels at FCMS, including that of Georgia Henderson, in his office in the General Assembly building in Richmond. Exposure and feedback go a long way to shape an artist’s perspective about his work. “Donovan Waugh’s stained glass window, hanging in the General Assembly building, reflects the clean craftsmanship and natural sense of design that he possesses. Not to be overlooked are the sixth and fifth graders, both new to the middle school art program. From drawing to painting, these students have shown themselves to be willing and able to take on challenges in all media,” she adds.
How do these students feel about their art?
“Some students are too critical of themselves. They don’t realize that the sum total of all that they put in to their work comes together in the end. Students who keep working through the problems to completion get good results. I believe in shortcuts and tools to help everyone get the cleanest, sharpest results. Good art does not have to be difficult to attain. There’s an easy way to learn anything. However, it does take hard work to stand out among the rest,” she said.
“My goal for these students is for each to realize that art ability and success is possible for anyone who is willing to do the work. Whatever the level of ability or maturity of each student, progress is expected and good results will follow. I like to imagine that each student at some point can look at his/her work and say to themselves, “I like it. It’s good.”
A native Fluvannian herself and a former student, Kritzer said she enjoyed her seventeen years at the Carysbrook location. She recalls that space had been the issue over the years and the art room was filled to capacity year after year, and she and others had to rearrange furniture to get around the room. She credits current art teacher Fran Walker with doing an outstanding job of converting the same space to a beautiful art room to cater to her 3rd and 4th grade students.
“It has never looked better,” said Kritzer. Kritzer, in turn, has had the privilege of inheriting Diane Greenwood’s incredible suite of rooms that has become the new middle school art room.
“Each room has its own personality. The space is unmatched by anything I’ve ever inhabited. It is both an honor and a dream come true to begin this segment of my career in the very school from which I graduated in 1982.”