By Josh Flory
KNOXVILLE, TN Sept. 2019 – Laura Lee Thompson’s students create plenty of art using traditional methods, but the teacher at Austin-East Magnet High School wants them to have digital expertise as well.
Thanks to a grant from the Great Schools Partnership, she’ll soon have more tools to accomplish that goal.
On Friday Thompson was surprised with a $15,000 check as part of the TeacherPreneur program, which is funded by the Great Schools Partnership and administered in conjunction with the KCS Office of Teaching and Learning.
The celebration included a surprise greeting with confetti cannons, an appearance by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and hugs from A-E students.
Thompson plans to buy 29 iPads, digital drawing tools and programs, and a projection system that incorporates Apple TV. The idea, she said, is that students will develop expertise that makes them more competitive in the visual art world and the job market, including skills used for building websites.
“We make artwork using traditional tools, like pencils and paintbrushes and those types of things, but I want kids to make artwork with newer technology as well,” she said. “It becomes more marketable and it becomes a skill that they can use throughout their life, to create artwork in a new digital way.”
Thompson’s grant was the largest awarded during this year’s round of TeacherPreneur grants. At a series of celebrations on Thursday and Friday, Great Schools officials recognized 17 teachers with grants totaling $101,570. The winners were chosen from a pool of 75 entries, and the program has awarded $643,000 to 85 teachers during the last six years.
Austin-East students were pleased to see their teacher recognized. Freshman Keayuan Hawkins described herself as an artistic person and said she loves the creative work that happens in Thompson’s class, including a technique in which students used spiral shapes to draw the viewer’s attention to a piece of art.
Senior LeShaun Blair said Thompson is interactive with all her students.
“Even though 50 kids are yelling her name, she’s always there to help you no matter what’s going on,” he added.
Josh Flory is Knox County Schools Communications Specialist.