Flying Colors - Success Story

G.W. Carver Cultivates Talented Students and Faculty


By Elaina Hundley, Magnet Schools of America, Membership Coordinator 

The year 2016 has been a huge year for G.W. Carver student La’ Jasha Champion and her teacher, Mr. Matthew Kirkpatrick. Not only has La’ Jasha, a junior at G.W. Carver a High School in Aldine Independent School District,  gained recognition through Magnet Schools of America’s Annual Student Poster Contest, but she has also won awards for other art competitions as well, including the IWrite Book Cover Contest. G.W. Carver’s rigorous Visual Arts Program fosters this sort of competitive spirit and instructors in the program introduce students to contests like these, encouraging students to seek out opportunities to shine. La’ Jasha attributes her success to her lifelong passion for art, G.W. Carver’s real world approach to art instruction, and to the support of her teachers and parents as she continues to pursue her passion and develop her skills in artistic expression. 

Magnet Schools and Opportunity

La’ Jasha Champion has always loved art. She says that for as long as she can remember she has delighted in playing with different mediums and finding new ways to be creative. However, participating in contests like the ones she’s won this past year is new to her.  It takes guts to put your work out to the world and La’ Jasha ascribes her initial participation and success in competitions to the guidance, support, and enthusiasm of her teachers and her parents. Now La’ Jasha even seeks out such opportunities on her own. Not only is La’ Jasha a talented artist, but she has received training in numerous artistic mediums both in school and in extracurricular art classes.  In classes taught by Mr. Matthew Kirkpatrick (G.W. Carver’s 2016 Teacher of the Year), assignments are modelled after real world situations.

 A Real World Approach to Art

 In Mr. Kirkpatrick’s electronic media class in particular, students approach assignments like jobs for imagined clients. For each assignment, students draft multiple versions. One version may be the student's interpretation of the assignment, the draft in which they let their imagination go wild. Other versions might be meant to capture the vision of the client. Mr. Kirkpatrick then goes over the version with each student and helps them hone in on which draft aligns most closely with the goals and purpose of the project based on the client’s need. The same process is used when Mr. Kirkpatrick is helping students enter contests like the ones La’ Jasha has participated in. However, Mr. Kirkpatrick’s teaching techniques are not only literally based in the real-world application of art, but his personal philosophy and perspective on art is easily applicable to other disciplines and any aspect of life. Mr. Kirkpatrick views the creation of art as an abstract problem to be solved. He hopes to instill this perspective in his students so that what they learn in art class – critical problem solving – can benefit them in other areas of their academics and in their lives.

 Measurable Success: Contests

 Mr. Kirkpatrick’s real-world approach to art instruction is valuable in contest entry because his students are able to discern what types of work (from subject and composition to medium and technique) are most appropriate for each contest, he served as a sounding board for La’ Jasha when she was thinking through her own approach to the IWrite competition illustration. Her track record is a testament to the value of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s approach and La’ Jasha’s list of accolades just keeps growing. Her most recent accomplishment is earning first place in the IWrite Book Cover contest.  Each year, IWrite Literacy releases an anthology of children’s stories written for kids by kids. Houston’s very own La’ Jasha Champion illustrated this year’s cover.  La’ Jasha’s success is not limited to IWrite and MSA’s Annual Poster Contest, she has been recognized in several other contests including winning first place in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell - Musical Scores Logo Design Contest, she won a medal in the TAEA - Visual Arts Scholastic Event (V.A.S.E), and she also received a blue ribbon in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo - Student Art Contest.

 If you are a teacher interested in placing student work in competitions like the ones La'Jasha has participated in, Mr. Kirkpatrick has a few words of advice: 

"1. Submit to everything you can: aim to submit work to every little tiny contest that comes accross your desk.  Look for contests that don't require a student to start something new or contests that allow digital submissions, that way you can still use the work you're submitting elsewhere. When you go through the (sometimes arduous) process of sending home paperwork, gathering signatures, and motivating students to finish assignments in time for you to send it to contest, you are training both yourself and student in what it takes to get that work out for the next time you submit or the next contest. Hopefully it gets easier and easier.

2. Start contest folders early: My coworker Laura Luna showed me this system - print out an inventory form with the contest name the minute it comes accross your desk and staple it to the outside of a manila folder. As you figure out which students are submitting add their names to the inventory and put their filled out paperwork in the folder. Now you know who you need to bug and who hasn't recieved or brought back signed paperwork by simply glancing at the inventory sheet. 

3. Keep a competition binder: start a binder with tabs for each month. Put blank copies of your paperwork for each contest in the month that you wish you had started working on it. that way next year you will see it at the right time, know whats involved, and know what to look ip to see whats changed. Also this is a great place to keep contacts, names, dates, and contest notes, all in one place." 

It is evident from La’ Jasha’s story that talent, perseverance, and a nurturing environment plus the use of real world scenarios in school can lead to meaningful success and measurable success.

Learn more about G.W. Carver here.

See La’ Jasha interviewed about her experience with the IWrite competition here

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Posted December 2016