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Local Schools Continue Serving through Crisis with Digital Learning

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Brooke Skelton, Paul Duke STEM High School teacher
Career and Technical Education teacher Mr. Brooke Skelton practices social distances from his home office while helping Paul Duke STEM High School students complete their video projects. (Photo courtesy of Brooke Skelton)

In an effort to stall the spread of COVID-19, most businesses and organizations have closed temporarily or curtailed their activities in some way. Many have found innovative ways to adapt and meet the needs of clients.

Few people would argue that schools across the nation — including Peachtree Corners area schools — have made the necessary changes quickly and efficiently. With short notice, they moved from classroom to digital learning.

Teachers are connecting online with their students while offering support to the parents working from home. Administrators and school support staff are making sure that teachers, pupils and parents get everything they need, and providing free, nutritious meals for students who need them.

Local schools, public and private, have found ways to keep students learning, families involved and everyone connected so they can weather the storm together.

Publisher’s Note: This article was written for the April/May issue and submitted March 31 for publication. Since then Gwinnett County Schools have moved to a 4-day school schedule which ends on May 20th.

Paul Duke STEM High School

Ms. Candace McRae, a counselor at Paul Duke STEM High School, works with students from home.
Credit: Candace McRae

Dr. Jonathon Wetherington, principal at Paul Duke STEM High School, explained that the teachers and staff are always prepared for Digital Learning Days as an emergency possibility. “As the COVID-19 concerns increased, we gradually began to ramp up our readiness the week prior to school moving to digital learning,” he said. “Given our regular digital learning on Fridays, we were well prepared for this experience, and I think we are getting better every day that goes by.”

He reported that the digital learning is going well. The students and teachers are highly engaged, he said, and students are checking in and continuing their learning every day. “We appreciate our parents pitching in and helping our students on a daily basis because we cannot be there for them like we are used to.”

Dr. Wetherington admitted that some students were reluctant to complete their assignments, so teachers and staff call to check on those individuals. “Also, our students are struggling — just like many of us — with the realities of our current situation, and we are reaching out more and more with phone calls and conference calls to provide some routine normalcy and support,” he said. “Our teachers love our students, and many of our students are worried about their future.”

For one of the weekly advisement lessons in March, the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team focused on helping the students learn how to handle their stress better. “Our students and teachers are truly amazing!” Dr. Wetherington said.

It’s just one example of the many Paul Duke STEM success stories. Another is the French teachers who were able to connect with their students to share musical moments with French songs. “I think our biggest successes are when we are able to connect with our students directly through a phone call or video lesson,” he said. “These human moments help sustain our digital efforts, and they remind our teachers and students that we teach students, not subjects.”

Schools belong to the communities they serve, Dr. Wetherington noted, and “at times like this, it is wonderful to lead such a caring and passionate group of teachers committed to our students’ success.” He added that he truly appreciates all the support that the parents and students have shown, as well.

“I say to the students often that ‘We are learning together to lead tomorrow,’” he continued. “I just never knew that tomorrow would come so soon, so I am grateful for how we are all learning together each and every day.”

Cornerstone Christian Academy

“Cornerstone families: for those of you who have been around Cornerstone for a little while, you know me well enough to know that I desire to keep our doors open if at all possible. While digital learning is worthwhile, we all know it cannot replace face-to-face interaction.” This is how the first communication regarding the Coronavirus situation to the Cornerstone Christian Academy community began.

After rolling out digital learning plans, Headmaster Colin Creel closed with this: “I am so grateful for all of our staff and their willingness to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the integrity of our students’ education is not compromised. In addition, thank you to our parent community for supporting our efforts to achieve this goal. We are blessed beyond measure. Onward and upward!”

Under the leadership of school principals, Cornerstone implemented digital learning protocols on March 16. Parents were asked to pick up textbooks, journals, binders and other resources from the school.

Chromebooks were made available to students. Teaching teams collaborated to devise the best plan for close to 400 students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade.

During the Coronavirus quarantine, students continue to check for uploaded assignment documents which include links to video and textbook resources, as well as online assessments. Middle School teachers are hosting live Zoom classes on a set schedule each morning and recording those classes for any student unable to attend.

Lower School teachers assign work through a nightly email to parents. Plans include detailed instructions for the students as well as links to several online resources including videos and activities.

Teachers are also keeping it personal with sweet daily welcome videos encouraging their students to have a great day. There are many opportunities for the teachers to assess their students’ work and provide support when it is needed.

In addition to daily required assignments, enrichment lessons and activities are provided. Physical Education (PE) videos keep the students active and have even included a fun video unit on juggling. The fine arts department is utilizing FaceTime to provide live piano and voice lessons.

In an effort to keep families connected, Cornerstone posts daily family challenges, jokes of the day submitted by students and dinner table topics on our digital learning parent resources page. Families especially have enjoyed submitting their video answers to the school’s Family Feud game. Everyone gathers, online, on Friday mornings to worship God together in Chapel; it’s a favorite part of each week for families.

Since they aren’t able to interact with the school community, non-teaching staff members have formed a Care Team, praying for families, writing notes of encouragement and making phone calls to see how to serve families.

A parent recently sent this note to Cornerstone: “Through our nine years at Cornerstone, we have been reminded again and again of something that was said to us by a parent when we first toured the school: “Cornerstone is like an extension of our family.” Never has that been truer than it is now. In this time of adversity, we are all sharing the same fears, uncertainty, challenges and disappointments, but we are facing them together offering each other the same encouragement, hope, faith and love that a family does during difficult times.”

Norcross High School

Principal William Bishop of Norcross High School said that NHS students and teachers have done an outstanding job moving over to learning and teaching digitally. This isn’t surprising, since the teachers have been growing their skills in using digital tools to teach students over many years.

“Our Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence has assisted the work in using digital tools by increasing the amount of technology that our students and teachers have access to at school,” he explained. “In the last few years, when we have been out of school for weather reasons, we have had Digital Learning Days, so this is not new to us.”

Still, Bishop added, learning digitally over a longer period of time is an adjustment for everyone. “In the past, if we are out of school two or three days, test dates or learning certain skills might be delayed until students returned to school,” he said. “As we look at the possibility of students learning digitally over a longer period of time, we have had to make a few adjustments in how we teach and how we assess student learning.”

One challenge the school faced was a handful of students who were not participating in some of the classes. The teachers and other staff members reached out to them and their families, and “we have made great progress in the participation of our students,” Bishop reported. That kind of focus on success is nothing new, he stressed, since NHS teachers and students are constantly making adjustments to ensure students are learning, whether in a classroom or online.

Digital Learning Days also brought an opportunity for some students to catch up on their classes. “Early in the semester, we had a few students who were behind in their work and needed to get caught up on their learning,” Bishop said. “With the support of their teachers, many of these students have not only learned new material online, they also caught up on the knowledge and skills they were missing before digital learning began.

“Our society values people who have knowledge and skills,” he continued. “It is key that our students continue to learn and grow whether it is in a traditional classroom or learning digitally.”

Greater Atlanta Christian School

When the school year went to digital learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC) had a ready solution and pivoted to its online learning platform. Launched two years ago, GAC’s online Ethos School has been adapted to support the current need for digital learning for the school’s 1,600+ student body.

“Based on research and the demand for digital skills in the workplace, education systems are moving toward more online options,” said Director of Academics Dr. Betty Morris.

“Top tier colleges are leading the trend by offering higher educational degrees via an online platform.”

GAC was already educating more than 200 students across the globe through its Ethos School program before the current health crisis. Therefore, “our administration and highly-qualified teachers fully understood the online learning setting and were prepared to quickly transition the GAC educational experience into an online learning environment,” said High School Bible teacher Derek Wilson.

With modalities adapted to the age and needs of the students, GAC teachers are ensuring that learning continues and and that students and families feel supported during this challenging time. The response from parents and students has been overwhelmingly positive, for both the way in which GAC has supported students and families emotionally and also for the way in which students are adapting to the new learning environment.

With daily videos going out from its president, Dr. Scott Harsh, and frequent, uplifting messages going out through email and social media, GAC is making the most of the situation.

“Maybe the biggest difference-maker so far that I see is the tone of normalcy and excitement GAC has created for the kids during this time of online learning,” said parent Sandra Onal.

GAC students continue with their regular school day, with interactive instruction given in every class period. Teachers are using digital tools to fully engage students during class and are available to help before and after school as well.

Teachers are also finding creative ways to make class time fun and engaging. One teacher, Joann Waldrop, asked all of her students to bring their pets to class. Students are also scheduling lunch via Zoom together. The opportunities for connection are endless.

“There are many valuable lessons in all of this,” said Dr. Harsh. “Students are learning to adapt and make the most of the challenging circumstances. Even when so much has come to a halt, our students are continuing to learn, connect, laugh and grow, even though school looks different. An essential element for personal growth is adapting to change and learning resilience and I’m so very proud of the way our students are responding.”

Wesleyan School

Wesleyan School students, left to right, Anslee and Jamarcus Davidson enjoy working at their own pace with distance learning. Photo courtesy of Wesleyan School

Wesleyan School was scheduled to begin Spring Break at noon on Friday, March 13. As the global and national reality evolved that week, the administration and academic leadership had approximately 48 hours before Spring Break to craft a plan, notify families of the shift to distance learning upon return from the break, and to train teachers.

During the break, the division principals, associate head of school, technology team and other administrators worked to prepare, and students began distance learning from home on March 25.

“While this certainly is an adjustment for everyone – students, parents and teachers – things seem to be going well,” said Wesleyan Associate Head of School Ramona Blankenship. “Our principals created a distance learning plan that started out gradually in terms of pace and workload. They did this intentionally to lay a strong foundation and to give families as much bandwidth as possible to adjust to this new normal of students and parents working from home together.”

Blankenship said that, overwhelmingly, the feedback has been positive as parents are sorting out how to oversee schoolwork from home while many are working remotely themselves.

Bethany Davidson, mother to Jamarcus, 12th grade, and Anslee, 9th grade, as well as two Wesleyan graduates, said she thinks the school did an exceptional job rolling out the distance learning model. “As a parent, I’m very grateful for all the hard work our administrators and faculty have done to help things go as smoothly as possible. It’s fun to be able to do things together that we don’t normally get to do, like have lunch on the porch.”

Davidson added that the family has decided that they enjoy this form of learning — with the exception of the social aspect. “That’s the hardest part — being disconnected from our Wesleyan community which is so very important to us!”

According to Wesleyan Lower School Dean of Counseling and Student Services Nancy Jones, one of the big challenges everyone is facing — not just schools or students — is managing emotional health during this time. “We believe that as a school, we are not just responsible for the academic well-being of our students, but also for their social and emotional well-being,” Jones said. “To that end, we are working hard to provide resources to families to support them as they navigate this unprecedented time.”

Counselors in each division — lower, middle and high school — have curated articles for parents on how to talk to their children about the pandemic and provided links to activities and resources for student use.

“Middle and high school have started a Weekly Wellness Guide that is sent directly to students each week,” Jones continued. “This includes a suggested daily schedule of activities students can do to clear their minds, relieve anxiety and stay healthy during this time of uncertainty. We are using Wesleyan’s digital platforms to provide check ins with students, and to provide light-hearted video moments for our whole Wesleyan community!”

Ninth grade student Anslee Davidson said that she’s enjoying the freedom to work at her own pace. “I finished before lunch today and then was able to work on my music and then enjoy some time out on the lake,” she said. “The biggest negative is not being with my friends and my teachers. I miss them all so much.”

GCPS Delivers Education and Nutrition to Students

As of March 16, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has shifted to digital learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis. According to the GCPS website, “students and classroom teachers continue teaching and learning at home through Digital Learning Days.”

Teachers post assignments on their eCLASS C&I course pages during Digital Learning Days. Students use the MyeCLASS student portal to log in to their course pages where they access assignments, resources and other materials.

If a student does not have access to a computer or device, teachers can provide alternative ways to access assignments, such as email. Teachers may also support student learning through other means, including phone calls, discussion boards or online conference tools.

An important factor of successfully switching to Digital Learning Days is making sure students stay healthy by supplying meals to students. Many GCPS schools are providing lunch for pick up, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for anyone 18 years of age or younger.

These lunches are provided at no cost to the individual through the federal School Nutrition Program. The student or child must be present to receive the meal; a child does not have to be a student at the school site to receive a meal.

Through the week of March 16-20, there were 138,371 meals provided to students: 23,004 at 68 school pick-up sites and 115,367 at bus stops.

“The number of students participating has grown since the first few Digital Learning Days. Our school nutrition and transportation teams have done a wonderful job continuing to make and deliver meals to our students,” said Norcross High School Principal William Bishop.

Schools in Peachtree Corners where meals are available include Berkeley Lake Elementary School, Peachtree Elementary School, Stripling Elementary School, Duluth Middle School, Pinckneyville Middle School, Summerour Middle School, Duluth High School, Norcross High School and Paul Duke STEM High School.

That’s not all. School buses deliver meals at bus stops in select clusters — Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Discovery, Meadowcreek, Norcross, Shiloh and South Gwinnett — and for several schools, including Berkeley Lake Elementary School. The buses make stops at their regular bus stops between 11 a.m. and noon. To get a meal, the child must be at the stop when the bus arrives.

“In GCPS, we talk about the two types of employees who serve our community — those who teach and those who support those who teach,” the GCPS website says. “We are so proud of the hard work that both types of employees have done and will do in coming weeks to ensure that learning continues for Gwinnett schoolchildren, and that lunches are provided to children who need them.”

For the latest information on student meals and GCPS Digital Learning Days during the Coronavirus crisis, visit the GCPS website, gcpsk12.org.

Contributing Editor Kathy Dean has been a writer and editor for over 20 years. Some of the publications she has contributed to are Atlanta Senior Life, Atlanta INtown, Transatlantic Journal and The Guide to Coweta and Fayette Counties.

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Education

Wesleyan Celebrates Graduating Seniors with Parade Through Campus

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Wesleyan School Senior Parade

On what would have been graduation morning at Wesleyan School, the entire school community celebrated the class of 2020 with a socially distanced parade through campus. Seniors lined both sides of Zach Young Parkway as family members, faculty, and friends streamed through campus bumper to bumper. Cars adorned with signs, pictures, bubble machines, balloons, streamers, and even a few water guns cheered on each graduate as they passed.

Wesleyan’s graduating class includes 115 students. The class of 2020 was accepted to 108 different colleges and universities and will attend 52 of those schools where they hope to realize not only an academic fit but also a place where they may grow emotionally, socially, and spiritually. A sampling of the schools 2020 graduates will be attending includes Auburn University, Clemson University, Emory University, George Washington University, Georgia College, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Tulane University, Villanova University, Virginia Tech, Washington and Lee University, College of William and Mary, and Yale University.

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Arts & Literature

Three Wesleyan Artist Market Artists Profiled

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Wesleyan Artist Market 2020

Editor’s Note: Even though the Wesleyan Artist Market was canceled in April due to the coronavirus Pandemic you can still view their work online. The show plans to return next year on April 22-24, 2021.
This article appeared in the April/May 2020 issue.

Mother Nature in all of her springtime glory inevitably awakens our artistic side. Most of us don’t create art, but we certainly enjoy visiting artist markets where one can take in professional expressions of creativity and talent across a broad variety of artwork.

My imagination was sparked while meeting the artists behind three inspiring bodies of work. They’re among 80 artists scheduled to exhibit at the ever-popular Wesleyan Artist Market (WAM) planned for this past April.

For 22 years, artists have been submitting portfolios, hoping for a coveted spot in the show. The panel gets more selective every year, guaranteeing an exhibition that exceeds all expectations.

Caryn Crawford
Mixed Media and Oils

On the Wesleyan Artist Market
This would have been Caryn Crawford’s fourth year exhibiting at the market she describes fondly: “It’s a real privilege and honor to be a part of such a great experience in the community. You’re bridging student artists with the regional artists they bring in. It’s great to speak with students, encourage them and see what’s going on there. That’s been really fun.”

Crawford loves to see so many gifted artists come together using different media. Since proceeds go to the Wesleyan Arts Alliance, supporting student programs, facilities and art education at the school, she loves being a part of “giving back to something wonderful.”

The Making of an Artist

Crawford grew up in the culturally rich city of New Orleans. As a young girl she recalls always having a paintbrush in hand and enrolling in every art class available. She loved visiting art galleries with her mother. “It was a neat place to grow up and to see art everywhere,” she recalled, evoking the colorful vibrancy of the street artists’ works.

Crawford has been a decorative painter for 20 years, working on wall textures, murals and ceilings. Today, she and a partner work on projects more likely to involve “Frenching-up furniture pieces.”
In a natural extension, Crawford progressed into abstract art paintings using acrylics and mixed media about 10 years ago. “Mixed media involves using different materials on the canvas like oil pastels or even objects from outside; pieces of glass or cut-up tissue paper, for example,” she explained. Primarily, she creates paintings using acrylics and oil pastel crayons.

Crawford enjoys the thrill of challenging herself beyond her comfort zone. Recently, she’s been painting with oils, working on landscapes and impressionist style paintings.

“It’s been beneficial later in my career to train under some regional painters as mentors. Teresa Gerard is an abstract painter I love to work with. I see her about twice a year. Weekly, I meet with James Richards in his studio in Tucker, doing oils,” Crawford said.

She loves the ability to blend oils, finding the vibrancy and tone of the colors fun to work with. Since starting to do more landscape work, Crawford finds that oils allow her more time.

“It’s been great to expand a little bit. Oils are a whole different world,” she said. “They allow me to have more time to play on the canvas, to accomplish what I want. You want your eyes to be drawn to it from a distance. Oils help to accomplish it.”

Inspiration

Having been so abstract, Crawford suspects she’s drawn inspiration from the outdoors, from different colors and the environment.

“You don’t know what you’re looking at in an abstract painting, but you are looking at something. You usually can’t see that in a painting. You have to ask each artist about it. Those shapes and colors do represent something,” she clarified.

The low country and the east coast of northern Florida inspire her landscapes. “I paint on Amelia Island a lot. It’s fun,” she smiled.

A former Wesleyan parent and artist, Crawford said, “I’m so thankful that I’m asked to do this every year. It’s neat to see everybody’s gifts. They come from above. I feel like any gift I have is from above, and I’m very thankful for this opportunity to share it with others in the community.”

Commissions

The best way to contact Caryn Crawford is through Instagram, @caryncrawford, or on her website, caryncrawford.com. Depending on the time of year and how many shows she’s doing, one can usually expect a commission to be completed within a month or two.

Every commission is a source of inspiration, as well as a challenge, Crawford noted. When someone says, “Can you paint this?”, a lot of times, it’s the first time you’ve painted it. It involves a little research. “It’s great to work alongside mentors to help me through some of that process,” she shared.

Leslie Rae Cannon
Acrylic

On The Wesleyan Artist Market

A former Wesleyan parent, Leslie Rae Cannon volunteered at the show before participating in it as an artist. After nine years, she is still thrilled to receive the congratulatory email about being selected as one of its vendors.

She shared her enthusiasm for the show, “You’ll be inspired. Wesleyan goes outside of our little community, pulling in brand new artists and giving them their start. They really raise the bar on quality art. They’re constantly reevaluating, trying to make it even better.”

Besides it being her first real art show, it’s her favorite because Wesleyan spoils vendors. “When you arrive, a hoard of volunteers (parents, teachers, students) come out and take your art to the booth,” Cannon said. “The hospitality is sweet. It’s the most comfortable, warm feeling being in that show.”

As a mom and former art teacher, Cannon shared another thing she loves about the show: being interviewed by students. The Fine Arts classes tour the exhibits and students get to choose an artist. “I love being picked for an interview,” she exclaimed.

“My kids were educated there, so I enjoy giving back. I love the fact that these kids have access to art as part of their everyday life. They won’t ever be afraid to try something. The art they’re exposed to and the different classes they have access to are wonderful. It’s endless what they can do, and they have great teachers,” she added.

Cannon enjoys the student artists, “They’re phenomenal! So many of them eventually become professional vendors in the show. I’ve been able to follow one girl in particular; I’ve even purchased some of her prints. She’s very creative and paints on anything that will stay still long enough. I can’t wait to see what becomes of her. I’ll be able to say, “I knew her when.””

The Making of an Artist

“I’ve been drawing since as long as I can remember. My parents set up a desk in the living room when I was little. My dad worked for an office supply company. My biggest treat would be when he brought home new glue, paperclips or Scotch tape; I would go to town. I remember drawing very young,” she recounted.

A native of DeKalb, Cannon took the limited elementary and high school art classes available to her at the time. She knew she wanted to use her creativity in some way and studied oils, acrylics and watercolors at Presbyterian College.

“I majored in art, but my dad was adamant that I also have a job. When I graduated in the 80s, social media didn’t exist. To be a prominent artist, you needed to be in a gallery and know people. The starving artist was a real thing,” Cannon explained.

So, she majored in education and taught in Gwinnett County for 10 years. Cannon shared proudly, “Kids would leave 5th grade with no fear of painting or sculpting; they’d been exposed to it as a regular class since kindergarten.”

After her second child, she stayed home and began to dabble in her own art. With young children in the house, the fumes from oil paints didn’t seem like a good idea — nor did their drying time. Depending on the environment and number of layers, it could take days or weeks to dry. This clashed with her preference to work fast, so she started painting with acrylics and never looked back.

Well known for her nests, Cannon loves thick paint, vibrant colors and large, loose brushstrokes. She includes texture and drips in her paintings, ranging in size from small to extra-large.

Cannon hopes to share the joy of art with adults who are afraid to paint. She plans to assemble groups to get over their reservations. She revealed what she’d convey, “Get your hands dirty, make a mess, play, enjoy it! Just have a relaxing, fun, non-threatening time.”

Inspiration

Having always been drawn to birds and nests, Cannon remembers a comment her mother-in-law made decades earlier. It powerfully echoed back to her the first time her eldest son came home for a visit from college, “All my chicks are in the nest.” She recalled those words and the sentiment resounded with her more than ever before.

Cannon created her first huge painting of three eggs in a nest, representing her children. Upon seeing it, her husband left a note which read: “The drawing over the mantle is beautiful. DO NOT SELL.”

aturally, she took it to her next show and ended up selling it for more than her original asking price.
Since then, she recreates that painting for the mantle every year, and every year, she inevitably sells it.
“Nature inspires me, and I also like the human figure,” she said. While she is fond of painting nudes, she likes them to be a little abstract. “They’re not very detailed, you can hang them up without having to put a box over certain parts.”

Commissions

Contact Leslie Rae Cannon on Instagram or Facebook, @leslieraecannon_art. Commissions are fully customizable. The number of eggs in the nest can reflect your family size; colors and backgrounds can be customized. Cannon enjoys working with interior designers, and will match paint chips, swatches of wallpaper and upholstery to match your room.

Depending on the canvas size and her commission schedule, she can usually turn pieces around in two to three weeks if nothing else is going on. “I ask a lot of questions to get a feel for what you like,” Cannon said. “I adore incorporating individual touches that would be unique to your piece.”

Michael Tablada
Ceramics

On The Wesleyan Artist Market

For Michael Tablada, The Artist Market represents his busiest time of year. It’s also the only time he makes “normal pieces,” like mugs, vases and bowls.

He described the show, the only one he participates in yearly, as a great community event and an exciting time. “It’s an invitation to come see a gathering of artists — from the community and from several states away — who participate. Over the years, there’s been a great mix of beautifully executed, high-end art and crafts made by self-taught individuals. Though they exhibit a wide range of work, the content is family-friendly.”

The show also provides an opportunity for students to exhibit and sell their art. It’s fascinating to see what middle and high schoolers can accomplish, Tablada added.

“We have top notch facilities and a plethora of media we work through,” he said. “Middle school classes are doing advanced painting techniques. High school classes are able to get on the wheel and create large-scale pottery exploring a variety of techniques.”

Proceeds from the show are used to grow the amazing facilities at Wesleyan. Whether it’s upgrades for studios, an opportunity for a student trip or a guest speaker. “We try to bring in outside influences. The Wesleyan Arts Alliance advocates for the arts, helping us strive for the best student programs,” Tablada explained.

Several students have unbelievable talent. Some are selling artwork made in class; then they go home and make more to sell. Others make baked goods or jewelry on their own. One student, who graduated last year, had a soap business she had started in middle school. She created her own self-sustaining business and has an online store.

The Making of an Artist

Tablada grew up in Alpharetta, Ga. He discovered his love for clay at Auburn University and started creating art in 2003. “I love how the slightest touch can change the look of the clay; it’s easily manipulatable,” he explained. “It can be anything you want it to be. I enjoy working with such a versatile medium because of all the possibilities.”

While telling Bible stories at school or before a congregation in church, Tablada creates pottery. Fusing music, visual art and the spoken word, he aims to elicit emotion using the gospel. “I enjoy combining elements to make as big an impact with the artwork as I can,” he said.

Tablada loves presenting. “Students go to chapel and many attend church, too,” he said. “To break up that rhythm by including pottery and music, they get mesmerized by the art. Before they know it, they’re captivated by the message as well. I love to draw emotions out of people as they connect with the experience. It’s pretty unique to be able to do that in a live setting.”

The process used to create his pieces is emblematic. Distressing the vessels represents sin, for example. Conversely, waves and blue glaze represent baptism. The story behind his creation dictates the methodology used. For example, throwing stones at the vessel “Criminal on Cross” while it’s being made represents the crowds who threw rocks at Jesus.

Conversely, the “John the Baptist” pitcher is laying down on a bed of waves. The figure is undisturbed while being dunked under the water. This represents how John the Baptist fully accepted the will of God and laid down his life for Him.

Inspiration

Tablada’s art is spiritual. A strong Christian faith is the backbone of his work, he said, and it wasn’t until after college that his faith really blossomed at Wesleyan. Until then, he had always considered himself a Christian but never truly explored what that meant.

“I started reading the Bible and the words came to life as I asked to know God personally. Being surrounded by a community of believers at Wesleyan played a big part in my faith journey,” Tablada said.

For the last 10 years, his artwork has centered around illustrating Bible stories in a novel way. “I give my pottery human characteristics represented in Bible stories. Each piece is derived from stories in scripture,” he shared.

His vessels start off whole and utilitarian. One could actually use them as a bowl, a vase or a pitcher. But when he distresses them, they become worn, representing sin.

“Just as our sins eat away at us, removing the original function God had intended for us, the same is true for the vessels. After distressing them to varying degrees, they are no longer able to hold liquid or to be used. Or maybe the piece becomes so fragile it’s about to break,” he said.

Tablada described his creative process. “I get new ideas about how I can turn a piece of pottery into a representation of something from the Bible. Whether it’s to teach a lesson for a presentation or to create a finished work of art.” He added that he likes to work on some pieces in the classroom, opening the door for faith-based conversations.

Commissions

Visit Tablada’s website — michaeljtablada.weebly.com — to learn more. Popular designs on his website are recreated upon demand — all handmade, of course.
Biblically themed pieces that are duplicated often include elements to make each one unique; forms, sizes, textures or colors may vary.

“I take commissions for unique pieces often ordered for Christmas, birthdays or one-of-a-kind wedding gifts. These have included coffee sets, sculptures and biblically-themed book ends.” A consultation with the artist ensures pieces are created to inspire the recipient.

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Education

Greater Atlanta Christian school Wins Georgia Scholastic Press Awards

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Greater Atlanta Christian School

Greater Atlanta Christian School’s student broadcast “Live @ 1575” made quite an impression with the Georgia Scholastic Press Association. They brought home the General Excellence Award and the “All-Georgia” award which honors the best overall Student Broadcast in the state.

The Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) was founded in 1928 and is the official organization for high and middle school journalism programs. It serves to assist and encourage quality publications via instruction and contests.  Annually they sponsor “The Winner’s Circle” which is a compilation of superior works by GSPA students.  This year the awards ceremony was broadcasted virtually on April 30th. Click here for virtual award ceremony

GAC’s Student Broadcasting is led by advisors Evan Simmons and Jeremy Beauchamp, and also earned eight individual awards. Winners include Miranda Musgrave, Andrew Brown, Trey Dixon, Sammy Street, Cooper Keyes, Judah Keyes, Joy Deas, Mallory Wild, and Chloe Fair.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS:

News Package / All-Georgia
“Guys & Dolls” by Miranda Musgrave and Andrew Brown

News Package / Superior
“Elementary Mile” by Trey Dixon

In-Depth News/Documentary / All-Georgia
“Empty: Can-a-thon Food Drive” by Sammy Street

In-Depth News/Documentary / Superior
“Student Entrepreneurs” by Cooper Keyes and Judah Keyes

Feature Package / Superior
“Black History in Music” by Joy Deas

Production / All-Georgia
“Show Opener 2020” by Mallory Wild & Trey Dixon

Production / Superior
“Football Hype 2019” by Trey Dixon

Sports Package / All-Georgia
“Friday Night Football” by Mallory Wild and Chloe Fair

Aware winner Sammy Street was featured on 11Alive for her video on food insecurity. Watch the video below

Advisers: Evan Simmons and Jeremy Beauchamp

Shown in Photo from left to right:
Miranda Musgrave of Duluth
Gisela Aquilar-Cortez of Lilburn
Joy Deas of Lithonia
Trey Dixon of Peachtree Corners
Evan Byrd of Lawrenceville
Andrew Brown of Suwanee
Advisor Jeremy Beauchamp of Norcross
Sammy Street of Norcross
Mallory Wild of Buford
Elijah Xu of Lawrenceville
Orrett Main of Loganville
Jay Crawford of Tucker

Not pictured in the photo:
Cooper Keyes of Snellville
Judah Keyes of Snellville
Chloe Fair of Suwanee
Advisor Evan Simmons of Snellville 

Source Greater Atlanta Christian School

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