Monday, July 18, 2016

Art Enrichment Classes for Homeschool Students

Parents, would you like a morning to yourself? Send your students to art enrichment with me! I’m an artist and art teacher with 5 years of experience in elementary and middle grade public schools. To see my work and learn more visit

To register your child or for any questions, text, call or email me at 912-704-3637, or Please give your child's name and grade, plus your phone number and email address so that I can send reminders. Class sizes are limited, so please contact me as soon as possible. Full payment reserves your child’s spot in art enrichment class. Checks may be made to Katie Podracky and mailed to 3022 Lake Forest Dr., Greensboro, NC 27408. All classes are held at my home and include all art supplies unless otherwise noted.

Art Enrichment Sessions for Homeschool Students (Fall 2016)
Wednesdays or Thursdays 
9-10:30 a.m.
$20/session or 10 classes for  $180
Art activities will be geared toward the interests and ability levels of your student. Maximum of 6 students/session. Students may explore painting, drawing, printmaking or clay. 

Possible sessions (pick the times that work for you and schedule with me to secure your spot):
  • ·      Wednesday, August 31/ Thursday, September 1
  • ·      Wednesday, September 7/ Thursday, September 8
  • ·      Wednesday, September 14/ Thursday, September 15
  • ·      Wednesday, September 21/ Thursday, September 22
  • ·      Wednesday, September 28/ Thursday, September 29
  • ·      Wednesday, October 5/ Thursday, October 6
  • ·      Wednesday, October 12/ Thursday, October 13
  • ·      Wednesday, October 19/ Thursday, October 20
  • ·      Wednesday, October 26/ Thursday, October 27
  • ·      Wednesday, November 2/ Thursday, November 3
  • ·      Wednesday, November 9/ Thursday, November 10
  • Wednesday, November 16/ Thursday, November 17

Private art lessons are available upon request. $25/session/any age/ all supplies included.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer Art Camp with Katie Podracky

Hey Parents! Would you like a morning or two to yourself this summer? Send your little ones to art camp with me so they can get messy and have a blast while you relax or get something done. I’m an artist and art teacher with 5 years of experience in the public schools. To see my work visit

To register your child or for any questions, text me or call at 912-704-3637. You may also email me at Please give your child's name and grade, plus your cell phone number and email address so that I can send reminders. I also need to know about any allergies. Snack: Please send a snack with your child both days of camp. Class sizes are limited, so please text me as soon as possible to let me know of your intent. Full payment reserves your child’s spot in art camp. Checks may be made to Katie Podracky and mailed to 3022 Lake Forest Dr., Greensboro, NC 27408. All camps are held at my home and all art supplies are included in the price of camp unless otherwise noted.

Clay Days Grades 3-5 (rising 3rd-5th grade)
July 6, 7 and 13(extra day for glazing), 9-11a.m. 75$
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at the pottery wheel, this camp is for you! In addition to throwing pots, students will be introduced to hand building techniques in clay. This camp wouldn’t be finished without a day to glaze your ceramic creations, so it will extend to the following week for a glazing day. If you are unable to make the glazing day, I can work with you to find a different date. 

Candy Land Art Camp Grades 3-5 (rising 3rd-5th grade)
August 3 and 4, 9-11 a.m. $50
Welcome to the sweet life! This week we will sculpt paper-Mache ice cream cones, draw candy still life pictures and paint Thiebaud-inspired cakes.

Chihuly Chandeliers Grades 3-5 (rising 3rd-5th grade)
August 17 and 18, 9-11 a.m. $50
Are you ready to spice up your room? Come make a chandelier inspired by the work of glass artist, Dale Chihuly. We will use recycled water bottles to make your masterpiece! If you want to make it light up too bring a strand of Christmas lights with you when you come to camp!

Color Magic: Batik, Ice-Dyes and Printmaking
 August 10 and 11, 12-2 p.m. $50
Do you love color? Are you up for a challenge? Join me for an advanced art camp for middle school students where we'll use color in unexpected ways. We will use wax and dye to make silk scarf batik art, followed by ice-dying old t-shirts to bring them new life. Have you ever wanted to make art with jello? This is your chance! We'll be using jello and paint to print fabulous designs on paper. We'll also explore the Japanese art of Suminigashi, or spilled ink printing.  Bring a bagged lunch and an old t-shirt that you'd like to ice-dye with crazy bright colors.

 * Private art lessons available upon request. $25/session/any age

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The importance of art education (part 3)

This post originally appeared on Keep Forever Box on  September 22, 2014.

There are many fun ways to help support art education and develop creativity in children. To help your local art teacher, introduce yourself and offer to volunteer. You could help arrange a bulletin board for her, or provide supplies. Personally, I’m always in need of copy paper, baby wipes, and toilet paper tubes. I’ll also gladly accept any unwanted old art supplies you have at home. I use old markers to make my own liquid watercolors. Google it if you’re interested—it’s awesome fun and inexpensive. Ask what the teacher needs. Sometimes it’s really simple to help. You could also offer to come in and help on messy days. Clay day is a blast. You’ll see the joy and the thrill of the art room first hand.

Art books
Read these fun, creative books with children to help get their creative juices flowing
For the little ones, read them one of these excellent art books. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a pop-up book about how to turn mistakes into opportunities. My toddler nieces and nephew love it, as well as my younger elementary students. It turns drips of paint into little pigs riding cars and crumpled paper into fun surprises. After we read the book, I often give the children a paper with a mistake on it. Then it’s their job to figure out how to make great art with it anyway. It’s easy and good fun. Students get to practice recovering from their mistakes, and you get to put scrap paper to good use. It also teaches not to waste! Yay!

Another book along the same lines that helps develop creativity is The Perfect Square by Michael Hall. Again, it teaches resilience, creativity and alternate points of view. It’s about an optimistic little square that gets torn up, shredded, and crumpled. That poor little square goes through the wringer and turns it around to create beautiful experiences out of hardship. What a metaphor for life huh? For the activity, all you need is a construction paper square, scissors and a glue stick—let the kids tear apart poor little square and then practice re-creating beauty out of a mess.

My last favorite children’s art book is an oldie but a goody. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson teaches students that they have the power to change their environments and to solve their own problems with imagination. All they need is a silly little crayon. It doesn’t even have to be purple. For an art project, I often give students a purple crayon as well as different purple shapes. It’s their job to take it from there and create whatever masterpiece their heart tells them to make.
Art at home
Here are some ideas to get creative juices flowing at home. Stop motion image from Organized Chaos, fort building ideas from All for the Boys, and Invention box ideas from Pink and Green Mama.

Other art activities to develop creativity at home can include:

Sidewalk Chalk Paints: Mix water, food coloring and cornstarch in a muffin tin. Hand over a brush and let the little ones go to town outside. They can learn color mixing, develop fine motor skills, and build observational skills critical for science class later on. When you’re done, hose everyone off, especially the toddlers. It might be the best part.

Homemade play dough: With simple ingredients and 30 minutes, you can create a huge amount of play dough. For tons of recipes, just Google homemade play dough or homemade salt dough. Children develop fine motor skills while they practice making tracks, rolling logs, building houses or even cooking. It’s great, cheap fun and puts your child in control for a bit. See a tutorial here. 

Cardboard Fort: It’s every kid’s favorite. So what if an expensive toy came in the box. Sometimes the box is still the best part. Offer crayons, construction paper or paint, depending on how messy you’re willing to let it get. See where the box can take your child. It could be a spaceship, a battleground for superheroes, a veterinary office for stuffed animals, or a doll’s dream house. Fun!

Build it Box: Put clean recyclables and random doo-dads in a box. When your kids are bored, get out the “build it box” and have them create an invention. Brainstorm about what kind of robot they could make and inspire them with some online research.

Stop Animation: If your child is a little bit older and technologically savvy, get him away from the video games by making him a movie producer. There are lots of stop-motion animation apps that are fun to play with and fairly easy to figure out… especially if you’re 8. A few of my favorites are: iMotion, StopAnimator and OSnap! Lite. Most of these are free downloads in the app store. Kids can take multiple pictures of their toys in different positions and really make some awesome and hilarious video shorts.

Remember when you’re arranging group activities with siblings or neighbors, allow kids to set roles for themselves. I do an amusement park engineering lesson with students where they create a ride from simple machines and recycled materials. There are always roles like safety engineer, lead designer, lead engineer—make it sound fun and give everybody ownership and specific roles for a more successful collaboration.

I sure hope these ideas help get you started to develop creativity with your children!   If you try some of these, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The importance of art education (part 2)

This post originally appeared on Keep Forever Box.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.   Last year at the middle school where I worked, we raised lots of money and wrote a grant for a sculpture project called “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
We secured hundreds of rolls of packing tape for our students and for students around the county. A total of 10 art teachers from 7 different schools worked together to have students re-create the March on Washington of 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Students made life size sculptures out of clear packing tape.
"Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington" sculpture project created by middle schoolers.
Artist and educator Katie Wall Podracky led middle school students with other art teachers in creating this sculpture project “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
Student groups of three or four were given the problem of creating one protestor for the march. They had to self-assign roles for each other, which often included a model, a safety engineer, a taper, and a structural engineer. Students researched the history in the computer lab to learn about who these people were and why they were protesting. They also watched the entirety of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech for perspective and inspiration. Students also spoke with a local commemorative sculptor about his process, and learned about George Segal’s work on the great depression and the holocaust. This project is a great example of how students practice problem solving, creativity, collaboration and communication in art class. Working together, they had to create a sculpture that would stand, communicate an idea, and fascinate their audience. It was a huge success! I believe it taught them so much more about themselves as individuals. They learned that students, especially student artists could be powerful agents of change in this world. This project involved learning way beyond reading passages in a book and taking a test about history.   Instead, students put themselves in the shoes of the person they were creating. They got caught up in the emotion of the event, and they were intrinsically motivated to do a great job. I am so proud of them!
"Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington" sculpture project created by middle schoolers.
Last year at the middle school where I worked, we raised lots of money and wrote a grant for a sculpture project called “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
Art class often includes the best practices in education. It’s basically how we all want to be treated in a classroom. We want to be engaged, entertained and experiencing hands-on learning instead of sitting back and receiving a lecture. We also want to have a little control over our own destiny. We want the freedom to put our own stamp of creativity and personality on our projects and we want to steer their direction to an extent. We also learn a lot from our peers when we’re allowed to interact with them. Art class is essential.
Students build civil right sculptures
In all, we had right at 125 sculptures of protestors at the march, and roughly 700 students participated in creating them. Some students were interviewed by the newspaper or television. One student group created a mini-documentary about the project on their own time. Many students said it was their favorite project all year. Art class is not only awesome, it’s lots of fun and it keeps students excited about coming to school.

To learn more about this art project and to see additional pictures and video documentaries, visit

So you’re probably wondering how you can help ensure that your children receive this kind of education. There are many ways to do this! You can help your local art teacher, or you can tackle some artistic learning at home on your own. For some inspiration, check back here later next week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The importance of art education (part 1)

I was recently asked to write about why art education. This post originally appeared on the blog called "Keep Forever Box."  Here's what I came up with: 

“Well with all the cuts in education, you must understand why the art teacher has to give up her room for a regular classroom teacher. It’s just common sense, right? Some things are more important than others”

A family member spoke these words to me years ago. He meant well, but it shocked me. You see, I am an artist, a perpetual art student and an art teacher in the public schools of North Carolina. In the few years that I’ve been teaching, my position has been cut or threatened many times, regardless of how great I am at my job. I have worked in a trailer with no sink where I carried in my own water for students to wash their hands. That’s hard when you have hundreds of students a week. I have pulled together amazing projects with a budget of less than 15 cents per student. I fundraise on nights and weekends so I can purchase good supplies for my students. I have also been repeatedly belittled through administrators' decisions about the value of my subject and I have lost weeks of precious planning time so that I could administer reading fluency tests that provided little to no meaningful data, even to the reading teachers. Appreciation is not a major part of this job. Sometimes my own family fails to understand the value of the services I provide.

Here’s why I still do it.
Art is not a sideline subject. Every single day, I hear parents, teachers, and administrators talk about the 21stcentury skills that they want our children to have. We want a workforce full of people who can think for themselves, troubleshoot, collaborate, problem solve, and clearly communicate their ideas. We want them to be persistent and overcome mistakes. We want them to be flexible and successful members of our society within an ever-changing working environment. We also want them to be tolerant of others beliefs and values, especially when they differ from our own. We want Steve Jobs reincarnate, only better, kinder and more socially adjusted. With today’s strict assessment techniques and test-taking government mandates, I firmly believe art class is perhaps the only subject that can still get us there. Here’s why.

A Day in Art Class
Every day in art class, I give my students a problem to solve. I propose an idea, or a challenge, and students typically work together in small groups to create a solution. Their process involves critical thinking (how do we do this?), collaboration (working with a group at their table), creativity (non-linear and often clever thought processes to come up with a solution with limited supplies) and communication (both while working in their team and to present results or communicate an idea to others through an end product).

In terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a common educational reference about higher order thinking, creating is right there at the top of cognitive ability. Memorizing facts for multiple choice tests… well, that’s the lowest level of learning and typically is meaningless in the long run. In terms of real life, art class teaches skills that apply directly to success in any job.

There’s a quote from Pinterest I love that says, “Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else. ” I don’t know who said it, but it rings true every time. There are many different kinds of learning abilities and different styles of leadership, but in art class, each and every student can find an opportunity to shine… to build self-esteem, confidence and to be proud of their accomplishments. Art class isn’t just about allowing students to express themselvesArt class is about modeling and practicing skills that will help children throughout their lives. These skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity will help them build stronger marriages and raise happier children. It will help them secure their dreams in the work force and it will help them survive, overcome and thrive as they face difficult times or decisions.

We didn’t get to the moon with reading, writing, arithmetic, and multiple-choice tests alone. American ingenuity, creativity, persistence, and problem solving got us there. These are the exact skills that children practice in my art class every day.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Summer hike in Yosemite

Summer Hike, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

This one was inspired by a photo I took this summer while Dave and I were hiking in Yosemite. We were on the way to see the most magnificent waterfalls I've ever seen before.  Thanks to a few snow days last week, I was able to finish it up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My mother told me not to be a teacher...

Jasmine at homecoming

Here we are together, two weeks before she passed away

Dear North Carolina,

My mother told me not to be a teacher. When I was an infant, she realized that her teacher’s salary would not allow her to take me to the beach to see the ocean.  As I grew, she told me to choose a job that would pay me well. She said that all people work hard, but that some people get paid way more than others.  Like they say in our great state, “She was right as rain.”  

I saw everything differently though.  I saw the countless children that my mother loved and the joy it brought to recall their antics and their successes.  I saw her summers off without realizing how many unpaid hours she was putting in to do her job so well. She was and is excellent at her job and her students are lucky to have her.  Still, I tried not to become a teacher. 

In college, I steered clear of education, but the highlight of my week was picking up my little buddy, Jasmine, a girl labeled at-risk for dropout by her teachers. Defiant, rude, loud and as sassy as they come, Jasmine made life difficult for her teachers.  She was kicked out of her high school for delinquent behavior. In their eyes, she was lashing out and out of control. 

I saw a different side of Jasmine though. When she got in my car she always changed the station to rap and cranked up the volume as loud as it could go.  It must have been hilarious to see a waspy girl like me riding around with my sassy Jazzy and 102 JAMZ turned way up loud. When we weren’t talking about her crush on Lil Wayne or Usher, I helped Jasmine earn A’s by teaching her how to study for tests. We turned it into a game, and then she aced everything. For all of her brash exterior, Jasmine was a gentle soul on the inside. She loved babysitting her cousins and she was as tender with them as any mother would be. She wanted to earn her cosmetology license and she talked about going to college like me.  I saw her struggle with her weight and worry about finding something that would fit for her homecoming dance. My heart broke along with hers several times through the years.  I loved her and she became a friend instead of just a mentee. I will never forget the day her mother called me to tell me that she passed away. She was about to turn 16.

I couldn’t save Jasmine.  In fact, I believe she was the one who saved me from a dishonest life with myself—I was meant to be a teacher all along. She showed me that much and more.  Five years later, I am a teacher.  I just earned my master’s degree while working full time in the public schools and I am graced by the presence of students like Jasmine all the time.   

In the few years that I have worked in this profession, I have lived so much. I taught a child who watched one parent murder the other one. I saw that student heal, grow and flourish again in the classrooms at my previous school. I taught children who had such low self esteem that they couldn’t see their worth until teachers broke through layer by layer to show it to them. I have watched, heartbroken as a kind cafeteria worker loaded up a child’s backpack with leftover boxes of raisins at the end of the year so that he would have something to eat over the summer.  I had no idea. I feel the sting of tears well up in my eyes even now as I remember this. They are tears of hurt, knowing that I have glimpsed the abyss of need in our communities but they are also tears of hope because I know that I have found my purpose.  I still have so much to give.  My mother told me not to be a teacher.

Parents, I am on your team. I love your daughters and your sons.  I take great joy in crafting the best lessons-- lessons so good that your children won’t even realize how much they’re learning because of all the fun they have in the process.  Once I teach a student, I always consider him or her one of my children too. Teaching is not a simple act of imparting knowledge. Teaching is a lifelong mentoring relationship—it is a calling—it is love.

It hurts me deeply to know that North Carolina has gutted the public education system in favor of vouchers and charter schools that can pick and choose their student clientele.  It hurts me to know that the legislature and governor have stripped North Carolina of the teaching fellows program to recruit and cultivate new talent for our children. I ache in knowing that they also cut master’s pay for deserving teachers who have given everything they have for a tiny increase in salary. Let us be clear. Master’s pay is a simple $3,000 jump from the base salary of a North Carolina teacher. To teachers who make 30,000 a year, losing this is a punch in the gut.  This is $3,000 less that they will have each year to afford a safe car, healthy food for their families, or the rising costs of college tuition for their own children.  And for what savings does this come? Is it for businesses to have a tax break?  Teachers are educating the future work force. The least we can do is make sure that they don’t have to live on government assistance while they do their difficult jobs.

Legislators will tell you that these changes are for the good of the state, but they are shortsighted.  Without quality teachers our public school children—the poorest ones, the ones who need it the most—will fall even more behind.  They will blame it on the teachers, because we are easy targets.   We tend to keep our heads down and do what we love—teach.  We don’t want to be involved in politics—we don’t want to make waves--we just want to be able to live on a modest but fair salary.  We want to work in schools that don’t have to choose between ordering toilet paper or copy paper.  Is this too much to ask? My mother told me not to be a teacher.

I hear some of my friends and family ask, “What’s wrong with these lazy teachers? Why can’t they get those test scores up?” I can’t begin to explain the hurt and anger that those statements incite. With rising class sizes year after year, little to no budget for supplies and rapidly falling pay, these statements are demoralizing. Students can’t ace tests when they’re hungry for nourishment, itchy from head lice or when they haven’t had any sleep because they are homeless and scared at night. Even when schools do succeed at raising test scores, as my mother’s school has, the teachers have yet to see the meager bonus promised alongside that success. The only reward that teachers receive is the intrinsic satisfaction of doing their jobs well and with great love.

I am one of the lucky ones. I am lucky enough to work in Guilford County now, where teacher pay is slightly higher than most in the state. In addition, my husband is not a teacher and so I am able to continue on this career path of doing what I love because we can afford it.

Dear North Carolina, land that I love, please hear me when I say, it should not be a luxury to choose teaching as a career. 

My mother told me not to be a teacher.  When I finally have a child of my own, please don’t make me tell him or her not to be a teacher too.

Katie Wall Podracky

N.C. Public school teacher, Greensboro