Ms. Renee Belville graduated from Seton Hill University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and with a K-12 certification, and moved down south to teach art. After teaching for eight years in North Carolina, she arrived at PA Distance after moving back home. With a total of 12 years of teaching experience under her belt, she is now in her fourth year of teaching art to 3rd, 5th, and 7th graders at PA Distance.
“Art is something I’ve been doing since I could first pick up a pencil,” she explained. “A lot of my family members are artists, so it just came naturally to me.”
“In about 5th grade, I knew I loved helping people, and I knew I loved art, so that’s how I ended up here,” she added.
For her art classes, Ms. Belville focuses on basic principles of 2-D and 3-D art using various mediums and supplies provided in an art kit that PA Distance mails to students at the beginning of each year. The kit contains colored pencils, colored paper, glue, tempera paint, pastels, watercolor paint, pencils, and a sketch pad.
Ms. Belville teaches her live learning lessons in a special teaching room (pictured above), where she keeps all of her materials and art supplies. Depending on the lesson, students may watch her demonstrate and create an entire piece of artwork live and on camera and then go and create it on their own after. She gives them time to process and ask questions before beginning their artwork independently.
“First, I present the information, and they get a set of objectives. Then, I demonstrate using an external camera which, I think, is more beneficial than if I had a class of students in-person,” she explained.
After students finish with a project, Ms. Belville asks each child to share their artwork with her using a scanner if they have it, or by sending her a photo for grading. Other times, they might show her their artwork directly using a live camera.
An example of live learning, using the desk-top camera, is shown below when Mrs. Belville demonstrates coloring in a picture of a slice of pizza on a grid:
“The camera lets each student see exactly what I’m doing up-close without having 30 kids crowd around me in a classroom,” she said.
By teaching virtually, students also have the benefit of learning at their own pace.
“Students can also pause and rewind the lesson. So they can watch me at their own pace,” she explained. “It feels like more of a one-on-one lesson for them this way.”
This year, Ms. Belville implemented something new with her 5th-grade art classes, where she asks them to write their artist statements. By doing this, her students take time to reflect on their projects, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and strengthen their writing skills.
“I always allow the kids to show me that they’re actively working. That way, I can check their progress and give them feedback,” she explained. “So they always have the opportunity to ask questions and get help.”
“The connection that I have with kids, virtually, is something that people outside of the cyber school community don’t understand,” she said.
Ms. Belville also strives to integrate her lessons with other subjects, like Math and Science. “I teach my students art using geometry and basic measurement skills using a ruler for different projects,” she described.
Ms. Belville also has plans to co-teach with Math and Science teachers to collaborate on a lesson so that students can see the importance of art within these other subjects.
“I also focus a lot about possible careers in the art world with my students,” she said. “People don’t understand that art is everywhere, and you can see aspects of art in many career paths.”
Ms. Belville teaches a summer art camp available to all PA Distance students, where she incorporates new mediums, like clay, that she doesn’t use in her classes during the school year.
She also hosts an Art Club for elementary school, every Tuesday after school, for students who aren’t enrolled in an art class that school year but still want to get more creative exposure. “Through Art Club, I’ve had students submit artwork to nation-wide art contests,” she said.
Ms. Belville notes that her art classes at PA Distance are no different from what students might experience at a brick-and-mortar school. “It’s the same way as I would teach art in a traditional school, except I don’t have a messy classroom,” she said with a laugh.