Teacher Feature: Mrs. Joan Helms

joan helms
Allison Kostiuk

When it comes to having a can-do, glass-always-half-full attitude, Mrs. Joan Helms is an expert. This talented artist-educator inspires confidence and creativity in all who enter her classroom -- on campus and online. 

Art class can be particularly challenging to transition to an online format, but that didn't stop Mrs. Helms. Of course, in true Mrs. Helms fashion, she credits her students for the classes' success. "The kids have been incredibly flexible," she said. "From day one, they were full steam ahead, and none of them have missed an assignment." 

Mrs. Helms explained that she shifted the focus of her Painting and 2D/3D classes from paints and clay to drawing. "Drawing is an essential skill for any art and something that lends itself well to an online environment," she said. "The girls are doing some really great work as part of a nine-day challenge. I asked them to do one drawing every day for nine days. I also introduced them to a new artist each day that they learned about through video." 

Mrs. Helms said the challenge idea came from a blog she follows that's written by an artist who created one new painting every day for a year. "If she could do it every day for a year, we could do it for nine days," said Mrs. Helms. "The girls went for it right away and enjoyed the work. Plus, they were able to learn from a variety of artists, which helped broaden their thinking." 

For her Graphic Design class, Mrs. Helms is utilizing a drawing program called Sketch Pad. "The girls just finished creating underwater scenes using only shape-based images," she said. "They did a great job." 

While making the switch to online teaching so quickly has presented some challenges, Mrs. Helms also sees many positives. "Working in a completely different way and without a studio full of tools forces us to be more resourceful and to think outside the box when it comes to educating our students," she said. "I've found some wonderful resources that I will continue using even when we're back in the classroom. This experience is helping us all realize just how much we are capable of doing. I think that's a good thing."

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