Second-year art teacher, Nicole Guthrie, is making a positive difference in student's lives.Elementary art is important. It sparks creativity, improves motor skills and has been linked to better academic success. Nobody believes that more than Oak Harbor Elementary art teacher Nicole Guthrie.
“Art allows students the freedom to express themselves,” Guthrie said. “The district’s emphasis on the arts and specifically at the elementary level is unprecedented. You don’t see that in any other surrounding districts.”
A Florida native, Guthrie has devoted her career to teaching. In her second year at Oak Harbor Elementary School, Guthrie has already made an impact. She oversees the entire art curriculum for 20 classes, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. An advocate for after-school programs, Guthrie, because of the popularity of her art classes, started an art club. The club has two sessions, fall and spring, and students meet one day a week for six weeks, mastering their craft, creating projects from ceramics to coil pots.
That’s only a small glimpse of the art being created at Oak Harbor Elementary. In the spring, Guthrie is instrumental in conducting the “Art Walk” which takes place during the annual Holland Happening. Students design art projects that are displayed in local businesses’ window for the entire town to see.
Students also participate in the “Night of the Arts” event. This special evening occurs on the last Thursday in May where each student’s craft or drawing is on display throughout the hallways at Oak Harbor Elementary. Parents, students, teachers and community members attend the quasi-art gallery of over 550 projects to recognize and honor the great young talents.
“It’s a very special evening,” Guthrie said. “It’s a ton of work and a lot of hours, but the students take such pride in their work.”
As things settle down for Guthrie, she reflects on the start of her young career. Early on, she aspired to be an artist. It was her dream. She started at a college outside of Tampa, Fla, taking art classes, but after two years transferred to the University of Florida to pursue her true calling, teaching.
Her career change was met with some obstacles. She graduated in 2011 when the economy hadn’t recovered from the recession. During this time, art classes were being cut and limited employment opportunities for teachers were available. After networking and exploring all avenues for employment, she landed a position in Pensacola, Fla. From there she spent time in Corpus Christi and Jacksonville, teaching math and middle school art before finding her way to Oak Harbor and elementary art.
“I absolutely love it here,” Guthrie said. “This is an incredible community with incredible people.”
It’s because of educators like Guthrie who realize teaching should not be restricted to the classroom and that students need opportunities outside of the typical school day. We need to thank Guthrie and her peers who go above and beyond what’s asked of them. We also need to thank the Oak Harbor Community who not only believe in their students but also support its schools with a passed levy.
Being the wife of a Navy pilot, there’s no telling how long Oak Harbor will be able to keep Guthrie. No matter how long we have her, she will have left a lasting impression.