Creating a spark with the arts: Cathedral teacher wins grant to focus on arts education

Published 10:15 am Sunday, December 16, 2018

NATCHEZ — Perhaps the best way for young minds to grow is to allow time during a busy learning schedule for a little creativity.

At least that is what one of Cathedral Elementary School’s third-grade teachers said she believes is important for her class.

Torri Webber said her students are pushed to do their best and show top marks in every subject every single day, be it math, science or reading.

Email newsletter signup

However, the curriculum includes little that allows children to unwind and let their own imaginations explore the creative part of learning, something critical for every young mind to develop, Webber said.

“My vision is to expose the children in the lower elementary to a lot of different kinds of art,” Webber said. “Cathedral currently has no art program in our elementary school whatsoever. … Art gives them a time to create and learn the skills that can’t be learned in other subjects, such as motor skills, creativity and patience. … It gives a good balance with academics, and gives them a release from the pressure of other subjects.”

Earlier this year, Webber applied for the Voya Unsung Heroes program and was selected as one of 100 finalists nationwide to be awarded a grant for $2,000, which will be used to carry out her vision in her classroom.

With those funds, Webber said she intends to invite at least one local artist into her classroom each month, starting in January. The artist would volunteer their time to provide a lecture and demonstrations in various art forms, including watercolor, sketching, sculpting, acrylics, printing, mobiles and photography, she said.

“I hope to help students develop a community relationship with these local artists,” Webber said. “The grant will help us get all of the supplies and the artists will volunteer their talents and time.”

Webber said she hopes to close out the school year in May with an art show, at which students can choose one of their own creations to be auctioned off. Proceeds will help continue the program and start a scholarship fund, Webber said.

“That’s all in the plan,” she said. “With this amount of money, we have no idea what to expect. It may take a few years before we can award a scholarship to one of our seniors entering the arts.”

Webber said she believes the program will spark the interest in new art mediums among her students, who are already thrilled to pull out a pencil an paper and start sketching whenever the opportunity presents itself.

“I think the program will do well,” Webber said. “Our community is interested in giving children these connections with someone who does art. … I think it will inspire them.”