For more than three decades, Laura Heck has been inspiring students at The Day School at The Children’s Institute. As an art educator, her unlimited creativity and boundless positivity have been a stroke of genius in the lives of thousands of students.
What gets you excited to get out of bed every morning? What motivates you?
Knowing that I get to create art with students and introduce them to unfamiliar materials that they can explore excites me! I try to focus on the creation of the artwork, not the outcome. There is no "wrong" in art! Pablo Picasso put it best, “Every child is an artist."
Why did you choose to work in education?
I choose to work in education for a few reasons. My mother was a teacher. I had a cousin with Down Syndrome and my mother was so patient and kind to him. She had such a huge heart and I wanted to be like her! Then, when I was in high school, I loved to watch my favorite art teacher doing demonstrations for the class. I was in awe of his artistic style as well as his passion for sharing his talents and knowledge. He commanded the class, and the enjoyment and love for his craft were inspiring to me. That’s when I knew that teaching is what I wanted to do for my career.
What makes a "good day" at school?
When the lesson is a success and you see the impact the materials had, you realize that all your planning and preparation were worth it! Hearing the students’ laughter and seeing their smiles – especially when they don't want to leave the art room because they are having such a good time – that makes a great day at school.
What student or classroom accomplishments fill you with the biggest sense of pride?
What seems like a small success to us is often a HUGE success for students. Creating a fun and rewarding art experience and then seeing even the smallest of accomplishments fills me with pride. Knowing that I was a part of that process of helping students to achieve those goals is amazing.
What is your favorite thing about working at the Day School?
Our team! Being the art teacher, I get to see every classroom and I am always in awe of the amazing team that we have here at The Day School. I am blown away by their devotion and dedication to each of the students. Everyone brings something wonderful to the table, and I try to "steal" their awesome ideas and incorporate them into my classroom.
Please describe a typical day at The Day School.
Every day is different and not every lesson is successful. But art class is still fun! I prep a variety of materials for the day's lessons, then the classes either come to the art room, or I will travel to them. On occasion, art classes fall apart, and I must quickly adapt and change my plan – sometimes for just one student, or an entire class. I have between four and six classes each day during the week. At the end of each day, I put on my other hat and become "The Shady Lady" as I tackle bus duty on Shady Ave. I make sure to give students a great big smile, wish each of them a "good night," and a "see ya tomorrow!"
What is something at The Children’s Institute that you’d like to highlight?
Our ancillary classes, including music, library, gym class, art, social skills, career ED, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech, are incredible! The Children’s Institute has amazing, dedicated teachers and therapists. This sets us apart from other schools. All this support provides students with other ways to work on building their skills outside of the classroom environment, such as listening to music, hearing a story, learning how to appropriately play with peers, moving throughout the building, exploring art materials, etc. I could go on and on!
Anything interesting that you’d like to share about yourself or your job here at The Children’s Institute?
I truly believe I was destined to work here at The Day School. I come from a large family, being the 11th of 12 children. My family is the best! We grew up in a home filled with love and laughter, and there was always something silly going on. With so many siblings, we all learned from one another. Because of them, I have learned to be patient, to listen and care, to love and laugh – all of which I bring to The Day School each day. Dealing with all the students’ personalities – and believe me, there are a lot of them! – has given me the ability to understand that everyone is unique and to respect differences. I am easygoing, which I feel makes me well-suited to work here. Not much rattles me, and I am ready to take on whatever the day has in store for me with a smile. I have been working at The Day School for 31 years now and I still love my job!