Henrico’s Top Teachers – Anne-Marie Slinkman

Greenwood E.S., art
The art bug bit Anne-Marie Slinkman early in life, but she didn't consider herself an artist until she reached high school. By the time she entered VCU as an aspiring designer, she had found satisfaction in her ability to express her thoughts in a unique way.

But ultimately, that satisfaction with her own artistic path wasn't lasting. So she turned to teaching as a way to help others discover the wonders of art.

Now in her seventh year as the art teacher at Greenwood Elementary School (following two in Chesterfield County and four at Highland Springs Elementary), Slinkman has found her personal happy zone.

"I just have the most special job in the world," she said. "I never wake up and say, 'I don't want to go to work.' It never gets boring – it's always exciting."

Slinkman works with each class once a week – an average of more than 100 students every day. This year, for the first time, she spends all of her time at Greenwood instead of splitting time at other elementary schools.

She particularly enjoys working with students not just for one year but for many.

"It's probably one of my favorite things, working with all different ages," she said. "I get to see them when they're little and watch them grow.

"Most kids love art – younger children in kindergarten to second grade especially. But as they get older, kids start telling themselves that they're not good at it. That is one of my biggest challenges. Everybody has the ability to create art. Helping them find that joy in making something from nothing, which is really what art is, is what I enjoy."

That philosophy played out in a meaningful way at Greenwood, where Slinkman was struck several years ago by the fact that the windows in her art classroom looked out into the school's courtyard – full of potential, yet empty.

So she wrote a grant proposal to Richmond-based Partners in the Arts, which provides funding for projects that connect core learning with the arts. It was accepted and used to hire a professional artist to paint a student-designed mural of various native Virginia animal habitats. It also helped fund an outdoor learning garden, which initially took shape with the help of students and PTA members.

"The whole school participated in this project so all were impacted, as will be any future students whose teachers utilize the outdoor learning space," a nominator wrote of Slinkman's efforts.

Slinkman tailors many of her lessons and projects to the various disciplines that students are learning in their core subjects so that art can assist with the learning process.

"I really feel that art is one of the few places where a child can find their own unique voice, work through problems, persevere and find solutions that work for them," Slinkman said. "There are certain things in life that we can't express in any other way other than artistically."
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