It's About Tradition: Melissa Rupe
Melissa Rupe has been an elementary art teacher for Mariemont City Schools since 1980 and has always enjoyed her job. “I always knew I wanted to be an art teacher. You can have a career with your passion and I found a way to make that happen. It’s something I always tell my students – pursue your dreams, find a way.”
And now, as part of Warriors BEyond, Ms. Rupe is guiding the art enrichment program at both elementary buildings. Warriors BEyond is the district’s flagship program for student opportunities offered beyond the traditional curriculum, including new enrichment experiences, travel opportunities, career exploration and service learning, giving students at all grade levels the chance to lead, reach and explore.
The district now offers well over a dozen afterschool arts enrichment courses to our elementary students. Launched in September 2015, more than 75 students participated in the inaugural session, which included courses such as cartooning, arcade game designing, puppetry and creating paper mache piñata. For the second session, over 100 students signed up for after-school art enrichment.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for learning and art to happen in tandem. For example, we created clay piggy banks in one session and we talked about the history of pygg clay. The students seem to latch on to learning when they can touch and feel the subject at hand. Added to that, students are learning concepts they might not even realize they’re learning, such as making choices and collaborating with their peers.”
Cross-curricular learning happens in her art classes as well. She leads a Native American storyteller project with 5th grade students and does Egyptian art with 6th grade students.
She also exposes students to experts in the field of art, like local architect Joe Toman who created the huge mobile in the Terrace Park Elementary lobby. Students in an after-school enrichment session designed the pieces for it. Heart Mini Marathon poster creator and draftsman John Maggard showed the kids how to do airbrushing. Local artist Janey Yates visited to show students how to execute various color pencil techniques. Ms. Rupe has taken students to Terrace Park Historical Society to pick out their favorite local artists, who will then come in to speak to the kids. Each year she brings the kindergarten class to the Cincinnati Art Museum when they arrive at the letter M in the alphabet – museum masterpieces, Matisse, Monet, murals.
“The children are a blast. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t say ‘I have to tell you this story about what happened today’ to my fellow teachers. This school is a place where we tell stories, and in my classes we tell stories through art. I’m always happy to be here.”