Teacher Shares Long-Lasting Lessons
By EMILY RAMSEY
ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY: Romney Nesbitt, Jenks Public Schools’ 2014 District Teacher of the Year, displays her students’ art in her West Intermediate art classroom. Nesbitt, a lifelong artist, is in her 11th year of teaching with Jenks.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
“We’re going to win state” is the first thing Romney Nesbitt says to me when we meet. Nesbitt, art teacher at Jenks West Intermediate, is Jenks Public Schools’ 2014 District Teacher of the Year.
Nesbitt’s statement pretty much sums up her can-do attitude, an outlook that she daily shares with her students and reflects in both her personal and professional life.
Nesbitt, an artist since she could pick up a pencil, has worked as a commercial artist, a courtroom artist, an art teacher, a pastor, and, most recently, added author and motivational speaker to her full-time teaching responsibilities.
“I love to go and encourage people,” she says. “That’s what I do, motivational things, and I want to represent the school district,” she says. “I really like to talk about education and the value of art in schools.”
An Oklahoma City native, Nesbitt received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from William Woods University in Fulton, Mo., her master’s in watercolor from the University of Tulsa and her master’s of divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary.
While her love for art developed early in life, teaching has never been far behind, she says.
“My parents said my favorite toy was a pencil. We have drawings from when I was five years old of family members that I had drawn. There wasn’t ever anything else I would do; it was never a question that I would study art,” she continues.
One of her most interesting artist jobs was serving as a courtroom artist. For two years, Nesbitt drew portraits of those on the stand at various trials including two high-profile cases: the Girl Scout murders and the Sirloin Stockade murders.
Nesbitt earned the job as courtroom artist after entering a local news studio and asking for the job. “I told them, ‘I draw people really well,’ and they said, ‘Prove it,’ so I went in and drew portraits of the news anchors in the studio, and they hired me,” she recounts.
Nesbitt has been teaching in one capacity or another for more than 35 years, she says, that includes working as a teaching assistant at the University of Missouri and, for 12 years, with the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa’s Artists in the Schools program, traveling to schools throughout the state serving as a temporary art teacher.
She is currently in her 11th year of teaching in the Jenks school district–the only school district she ever applied to teach at and the only one she wanted her two sons to attend, largely due to the district’s emphasis on art, music and physical education.
“Working with the Arts and Humanities Council, I gained access to a lot of school districts,” she says, which only solidified her confidence in Jenks schools.
One of her sons went on to receive his master’s from Yale University, and that same son is now living in Berlin, Germany, as a classical violist. Her other son lives in Los Angeles as a painter. “They were well prepared by Jenks,” says Nesbitt.
For a few years, she served as a pastor for a handful of area churches, but when she was ready to reenter the classroom, she again didn’t have to think about which district she would choose or, obviously, what subject she would teach.
As an art teacher, Nesbitt gets to practice art and share knowledge, two things she loves.
“Art encourages creative thinking, generating new ideas, which gives students a sense of accomplishment and empowerment,” she says.
But Nesbitt goes beyond teaching art and creative thinking; she also incorporates real world application into student assignments, whether that’s lessons regarding putting their things away, cleaning up messes or learning about entrepreneurship.
In addition to her already-filled schedule, Nesbitt writes a monthly column for Art Focus Oklahoma magazine and recently published a book, Secrets From a Creativity Coach. She also engages in public speaking events, specifically addressing artists and writers regarding time management, productivity and procrastination.
She shares that same information with West Elementary students, visiting classrooms throughout the school day for short intervals. Additionally at the school, she is piloting a visual thinking strategies program, which uses art images to teach critical and creative thinking, communication skills, vocabulary, and visual literacy – all of this in addition to her seven daily art classes.