Q&A: Shelley Speidell named state's middle school art teacher of year

Shelley Speidell of Goodrich Middle School has been honored by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association as the Middle Level Art Educator of the Year. 

First, how long have you been teaching, and how long at Goodrich?

This is my 13th year at Goodrich. I taught 15 years at Pound M.S. before Goodrich, and three years at East Butler Public before Pound. That totals 31 years of doing what I love.

Where did you attend elementary, middle and high school, and college?

I attended Eastridge Elementary, Lefler Jr. High, East High, and UNL. All schools from here in Lincoln.

When did you realize (either as a K-12 student or later) that middle school art was a great spot for you as a teacher?

I knew from third grade on that I wanted to be an art teacher. I won a couple local art shows and my dad was an artist, plus I loved working with kids when I was in high school and volunteered at Eastridge Elementary. When I applied to LPS after teaching for East Butler, Pound M.S. had an art teacher opening. When I heard my old principal (Bob Knaub) from Jr. High was now the principal at Pound, I wanted to work for him and decided middle school was the place to be! Luckily this choice proved perfect for me and I have “stayed” in middle school ever since.

How have you seen art have an impact on someone outside your classroom (perhaps socially, academically or some other way)?

I’ve seen art impact people in every way. Emotionally art “speaks” to each viewer in totally individual ways, socially it impacts our beliefs, it’s the common thread between past and present and it can unite and inspire people around the world. Awareness can be raised by the use of symbols and images and our students are alive and learning in a very visual, progressive world that our ancestors could not have imagined. Every week of every school year I get to see the pride in a students eyes as they show me their artwork, or they give me an artwork from home to display, or beg me to take their project home soon, or ask to take a photo of their artwork-in-progress so they can show their family, or recently use the iPads in the classroom to record with time-lapse the steps they use to create art. Art is so personal that being able to share it with my students forms a bond that many past students still have with me and we stay in touch. I still talk to an art student from my years at East Butler 30 years ago and I now have an art teacher colleague at Goodrich who I taught 20 years ago, what better proof that art matters and teaching touches lives.

What is it about the middle school age group that piques your interest as a teacher?

I love the age group in middle school because they are part child and part emerging adult, they can reason and synthesize and express, but are still open to new experiences and possibilities. Problem-solving is often associated with right or wrong answers and in the art classroom, that concept is dissolved and rearranged in to multiple, unique right answers.  Middle school kids are finding their social footing and exploring friendships and interests, it’s fun to watch and encourage and I wouldn’t want to teach in any other level!

There is a lot of talk about using more technology appropriately within a curriculum. How does, or how do see, that technology impacting your classroom? 

The most notable impact so far is that the students are exposed to a wide world of images and ideas, and can find information that they are curious about instantly. As digital art programs and apps become available to the middle level art-rooms, I see it enhancing and expanding what we currently teach, but I also see art as a tactile, hands-on experience that students need to immerse themselves in to fully enjoy. The look on my students faces the day we start a clay sculpture unit is so inspiring that I never want art education to lose that.

Published: August 17, 2015, Updated: August 17, 2015

I knew from third grade on that I wanted to be an art teacher. I won a couple local art shows and my dad was an artist, plus I loved working with kids when I was in high school and volunteered at Eastridge Elementary.

Shelly Speidell
Art teacher, Goodrich Middle School