An art teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Iowa City is being recognized as Iowa’s Elementary Art Educator of the Year for her work during the pandemic to create a new district-wide elementary art curriculum.
Buffy Quintero says she focused on diverse artists and art forms while working to navigate the challenges of distance versus in-person learning.
“I just saw what things worked over Zoom and how things needed to be simplified a little bit,” Quintero says. “Kids still wanted to have fun and be doing things and making things and creating. Everyone was stuck at home so that helped to see that, yeah, kids wanted to be making art still.”
Even though her classes were voluntary, Quintero was gratified that so many students made art a priority. She worked to adopt her online art courses so students could use things they had around the house, like crayons, markers, glue sticks, scissors, cardboard and colored pencils.
When the opportunity arose to help create the entire district’s curriculum, Quintero says she jumped at the chance.
“There are so many things as teachers that were out of our control and there were so many things that were unknown,” Quintero says. “Will we be in person? Will we be online? How many students will we have? There were so many question marks, so it was just a feeling of, well, this is something I can control.”
In developing the curriculum, she says one priority was to make it culturally responsive.
“I wanted to make sure that historically-marginalized voices had a voice in this curriculum,” Quintero says. “I really was careful in thinking about the artists that I chose to have as examples for the students, so I picked a lot of artists of color and female artists.”
In November, Quintero was named Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Art Educators of Iowa, an organization that has honored the state’s best art teachers every year since the 1950s.
By Charity Nebbe, Iowa Public Radio