- December 27, 2022
One of the first things Kelsi Quicksall did once she had been hired at Osceola Elementary three years ago was transform her entire classroom.
Everywhere you look, there is color — painted triangles on the wall create a gradient of rainbow, windows are underlined by LED lights and pom poms hang from the tiled ceiling. On one wall, Quicksall displays a "wall of tiny germs," post-it drawings by her students.
Creating an environment conducive for art was a big deal for Quicksall, of Ormond Beach. It's why she spent three weeks that first summer making sure her classroom was ready for her students.
“It was important to me to love where I am all day long, and for the kids too," Quicksall said."...They feel like it’s their art studio.”
Quicksall was recently named Volusia County's Schools Art Educator of the Year. A Seabreeze High School alumna, she was nominated for the recognition by her own former art teacher, Lisa Botkin, whom Quicksall felt was the one who deserved to nominated in her stead since Quicksall doesn't like the spotlight.
When Volusia County Schools made the announcement, the first thing she did was call her parents.
“It’s just an honor," Quicksall said. "I’m humbled by it.”
Art education hadn't always been Quicksall's career plan. In fact, she originally was a journalism major at the University of Florida. She never thought art could be a career option for her.
But as she got further in her major, she realized journalism didn't allow for the creativity she craved. It wasn't until her boyfriend, who is now her fiancé, made an observation that opened her eyes. He told her she reminded him of his own teacher, in the way she dressed and acted.
Quicksall went down to her adviser's office to switch her major.
“It just all clicked," Quicksall said. "I felt much more at ease with what I was doing. It came more naturally, and it was creative.”
Her experience is why she wants to instill the love of art in her students. She wants them to know art can be applied in many different ways, and has connections to science, math and history. Jobs today are looking for creative people, she said, and that's why supporting the arts is so important.
“It creates that love for learning — that lifelong love for learning,” she said.
Quicksall has been teaching for four years now, and said she has the best job in the world.
She's always loved art, and is a mixed-media artist today. But even if she had the option to dedicate herself to her own art full-time, Quicksall said she wouldn't. She loves working with kids. She said she's kid at heart herself.
This year, her classes look a little different due COVID-19, but she adapted quickly. Before the pandemic, she had a YouTube channel where she uploaded her own lessons and demos ahead of time for her students. She would play them as she walked around the classroom and distributed supplies, or helped students with their art pieces.
That channel has helped her maintain the same lessons for her Volusia Live students and those attending in-person. And like the rest of her classroom, she made sure to decorate her desk area for her live students.
There is no other subject Quicksall would rather teach.
“I feel like I’m an art educator first — it’s not just educator," Quicksall said."That art part is what I gotta do. It’s what I’m passionate about.”