Teacher rewarded for being creative

By Anna Yee

March 20, 2013 Updated Mar 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Erica Van Ollefen, or Miss V, brought art back to Kellar Primary School after more than a decade without the class.

Ever since she started teaching at Kellar in 2010, she's been expanding the lessons and tools.. mostly out of her own pocket.

"I'm just always looking for ways to make a little bit extra on the side from what I'm given, so I can get more, because we started with so little," said Van Ollefen.

Miss V says she'll use the thousand dollar grant to upgrade the program to include more digital art and not-so-standard projects.

"In art, we connect to so many different subjects," said Van Ollefen. "I mean, we do stuff with math and symmetry and geometric shapes and science lessons when we talk about caterpillars and butterflies and all different kinds of things. So, it's not just the art itself. It ties into the way they think."

Like thinking outside the box...

"We went under the table, and we did a picture like Michelangelo did," said fourth grader Rishikesh Nair. "So, we went under the table, because he had to look up and paint."

"We've done one where we did the 'Starry Night,'" said fourth grader Sela Clement, "And we used different colors for the sky, and we did black paper for all the houses, and it was really fun."

"I mean it's really exciting to see a younger student who, when they first come to kindergarten, sometimes they can't even write their own name, to when they're in 4th grade, they can tell you about these famous artists and apply these techniques, and they know about different color schemes and all kinds of things, "said Van Ollefen. "Just seeing their knowledge grow over time and knowing that's because of me and my class, I mean that's really exciting."