Andy Arendt believes every student can learn and make art.
In his classroom at LaRue County Middle School, he works to give his art students the techniques and tools to be successful.
Arendt said he makes a point of trying to inspire and encourage students. Not every student will be a Picasso when they leave his class, but he wants to see growth.
“Everyone has the ability to grow,” he said.
Arendt will be honored today as the 2017-18 WHAS-11 ExCEL Award Winner for LaRue County Schools. Arendt is the first middle school teacher in the district to win the award.
This is the 14th year the district has participated in the ExCEL Award, which stands for Excellence in Classroom and Educational Leadership and recognizes teachers from area school districts.
Arendt, who is in his 12th year of teaching, said receiving the award was humbling. He was one of four finalists this year.
“I’m excited and surprised,” he said. “... I didn’t realize it would be such a huge celebration.”
Arendt said the teaching profession chose him. He wanted to make a difference and teaching allows him to do that.
“I love to see the light go on in my students,” he said.
Arendt served in the U.S. Marine Corps before attending Campbellsville University.
He always was interested in art, which he said was a form of expression for him. When he was a student, he said he would get in trouble for doodling in class.
His teachers thought he wasn’t paying attention, but he said he learned through the doodles.
“I remember things visually,” he said. “ ... Sketching was a personalized shorthand.”
As a teacher, he believes students learn in different ways and tries to meet them where they are.
Arendt said he decided to teach middle school because he felt a connection with the age group. He said building relationships and connecting with students is important to his job.
He said if a student thinks their teacher doesn’t care, they won’t put forth any effort.
“They’re not going to do it for a stranger,” Arendt said.
Principal Jason Detre said Arendt finds a way to relate to the students and cares about their success.
“He wants kids to succeed,” Detre said, which is reflected in the students’ artwork. “Kids in his class exceed their own expectations.”
He said the school’s staff appreciates Arendt. He helps out with props for school plays and paints murals.
“We’re lucky to have him,” Detre said.
In class Tuesday, Arendt discussed the current project in which students would design a stained glass window painting. Instead of glass, students used water colors to create the effect of light shining through paper.
Students could pick their own theme for their project.
One student asked how many designs he could put in the stained glass. They needed a minimum of six, but the student wanted to paint 100.
“I challenge you to do your best and we’ll see,” Arendt told the student.
Class began with a quick demonstration and then students had studio time to craft designs. Arendt walked around and helped.
Seventh-grader Kairi Butler was just starting her project. She said art always has been her favorite class.
“He’s very enthusiastic about the class,” Kairi said. “... He’s really fun to be around.”
Jacob Clark, who also is in seventh grade, said he’s learned a lot during Arendt’s class. He themed his stained glass project around the game Minecraft.
Arendt looked over Jacob’s project before he started painting.
“It sounds like you know Minecraft pretty well,” Arendt told him.
Seventh-grader Ailey Patrick said Arendt is easy-going.
“But at the same time, you’re learning a bunch,” she said.
Story by:Katherine Knott - The News Enterprise
Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.