The Power of Art in School Success

Posted by Colleen Pacatte on 4/13/2018 7:00:00 AM

Guest Blogger:  Mr. Frank Fitzgerald, Spaulding School Art Teacher


If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” –From The World According to Mister Rogers         


                                         You are a wonderful artist!


    One of my favorite parts of the job of art teacher is when our principal Dr. Mauer takes new student families on a tour of Spaulding School.  Often times the students are very shy hiding behind their parents, reluctant to say hello. School can be a scary place and our newest families are anxious and unsure of what awaits them on their academic journey. I always give it to them straight. “I’m Mr. Fitzgerald and I have taught art here at Spaulding School for 22 years and you are in the right place because this is a wonderful school and a great district that supports the arts. Welcome!” When I ask them if they like to make art they inevitably smile broadly. Art has the power to animate our school lives.



    It seems like only yesterday when I first came to Spaulding School  way back in August of 1996! I was standing in my art room and our River Trail assistant principal Mrs. Moreano came in to say hello and welcomed me to Spaulding School.  She swears to this day that I didn’t recognize her but that’s not the case. We attended Libertyville High School together in 1987 and no one in our graduating class could ever forget Maria’s smiling face and kindness. It is not that I didn’t recognize her it was truly a reflection of my excitement, shock and awe of the magnitude my new job as Spaulding School art teacher.

Kids Working

    As I began my teaching career I soon began to realize that art has the power to make school meaningful in a way that I never realized before.  Art class is a hands-on, collaborative experience where the teacher facilitates the student' learning. In fact this is the way that all good teaching works. The choices that we make as artists are informed by our hard work across the curriculum.  My knowledge and experiences in the arts inform me as a mathematician, a writer, and a reader. Over the years my collaborations have led to opportunities that I never would have dreamed. I have taught music, technology and performed countless dance routines with our staff for our students. A few years back I even started my own cable access and Youtube show The Mr. Fitzy Painting Show: I encourage all students, colleagues and families to realize their creative potential in whatever areas their interests reside.  We all are truly artists, each and every one of us.


    I thank all of my colleagues and administrators and the Board of Education for their support of arts education in Gurnee District #56.  I also want to deeply thank each one of my students and their families for allowing me the opportunity to work with your artists! Last year I was humbled to be honored as teacher of the year and quickly I realized it is truly a group award. As I go about my journey in art and teaching I keep in touch with colleagues who have retired or moved on to other districts and see former students. They always remark to me that Spaulding School was the best place that they ever worked.  It is because of the family that exists in our district and their support for arts education. When I started my teaching career I had a lot less silver hair and my first experience was setting up the artwork for Gurnee Days Festival Art Show with my colleagues the Prairie Trail art teacher Mr. Triff and Viking School art teacher Mrs. Bodanyi . They helped guide and mold me from day one into becoming the art teacher that I am today. I want to thank them for all their support and the memories of creating artistic lessons for our students together, with Mrs. Phelps, as the District #56 Art faculty. I wish them both much happiness and creative joy in their retirements this year!

Art Team

Always remember the power of art to change lives and attitudes.  Whenever I have a student in my class who is feeling especially frustrated with school and art I remember that it is a growth mindset process. Dr. Pacatte has taught the district faculty well about this powerful and meaningful idea. I explain to students that art is not always easy all the time but that with practice and the right attitude all things are possible in life. Our role as educators is to model this mindset and remind our students of the possibilities of art. Always remember,  “I am not an artist………..yet!