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Student teacher uses own class requirement to focus on students

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Sunshine Leonard, a senior at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, is completing her student teaching assignment at Ragsdale High School. She organized a display of her students’ artwork, which will be on display at the Jamestown Public Library through April.

Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 12:16 pm

Sunshine Leonard is working toward a career in art. Although graduating from Houghton College in New York with a degree in studio art, she took a detour from her original career plans before getting to this point.

Following graduation, she decided instead to concentrate on a career in soccer. A soccer star in college, she played with the Charlotte Lady Eagles, a semi-professional team, for three years. She then joined their leadership team for another three years.

“My passion for art was always there on the back burner,” Leonard said. “I worked as an assistant in a pottery studio and made my own pottery and I also taught after-school classes to kids. When my husband and I moved to this area because of his job, I decided it was time to get certified to teach art.”

A senior art education major at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Leonard is a student teacher in Anne Popek’s art classes at Ragsdale High School.

When Leonard was required to complete a project outside the classroom that would involve the community, Popek suggested she organize a display of the students’ artwork at the Jamestown Public Library.

“I chose artwork from the projects they have completed since I have been teaching,” Leonard said. “There are 95 students and each had four or five projects. I went through each project and some just stood out.”

The end result was a display of more than 20 pieces of art by 14 students. It includes collages, print making, abstract marker drawings, etching on a scratch board, and origami.

The students’ work will be on display through the month of April. An open house for their families and the community will be held April 19 from 4-6 p.m.

Although the library art display was started as a class requirement, Leonard found the more she worked with the project the more she enjoyed the experience.

“The kids were very excited to have their art on display and that made it more enjoyable,” Leonard said. “It is a privilege to be able to exhibit their work.”

After graduation in May, Leonard hopes to continue teaching upper-level art in an area high school. While student teaching, she has enjoyed building relationships with the students and showing them they have creativity and how to express it.

“I see potential in some of these students,” said Leonard. “But more than just looking at art as a career, I hope they all will use it in other aspects of their lives, such as problem solving or discovering their other creative side.”

Norma B. Dennis can be reached at 336-841-4933 or

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