By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Nikki Myers is not above using puns to get students excited about art. One pottery team was deemed the “Harry Potters.” Some projects create so much mess, “it looked like a unicorn threw up in my room.”
Myers, art teacher at Bowling Green High School, was recognized Thursday by the Kiwanis Club as this year’s high school inspirational educator.
As she was being honored, Myers gave the Kiwanis members a taste of what it is like being in her classroom. The assignment had grownups teaming up to draw bizarre creatures. The result in one case was a nerdy geek head, sitting atop a winding intestines torso, complete with duck feet as the final touch.
“It’s a great way to open up,” Myers explained of the art exercise. “It’s a great way to get them to work together.”
Myers likes to combine problem solving with art. Like when she has students take off their shoes and work together to create the tallest shoe sculpture. First comes the frustration as the shoes keep falling over. Then comes the light bulb.
“They start to figure it out. They get geeked out,” she said.
“The kids are pushed beyond what they think they can do to make great art,” Myers said.
Students see what they can create from a cup or a plain white T-shirt. “Then we have a fashion show.”
The students visit a local farm to experiment with photography.
“They get all geeked out hanging with the cows,” she said.
They go to the Toledo Museum of Art, and play with the interactive art. “They sounded like they were in second grade,” she said of the high school juniors and seniors.
Students learn how to make moveable metal art – like a metal armadillo that squirms and a decorative pair of scissors that make a cutting motion.
Myers is also big on making mistakes.
“You’ve got to fail to succeed,” she said.
She is also big on community, and getting her students involved by creating posters for the school musical, designing T-shirts for the “Zombie Mud Run,” drawing illustrations for a book, doing window painting at local businesses, creating designs for Grounds for Thought coffee bags, and cookie boxes for the Cookie Jar.
“I want them to see partnerships working out in the community,” Myers said. “If you have a strong community, you have strong schools.”
Myers loves challenging her students. They help little kids create art at the Black Swamp Arts Festival and compete in the sidewalk chalk contest.
“I can push these artists outside their comfort zone,” she said.
Myers also likes challenging herself. She helped a blind student learn to paint by putting different scents in different colors of paint, so he could identify the hues. “It smelled like a bakery in there,” she said of her classroom.
Myers credits her parents – both former educators – with instilling in her a strong work ethic, an ability to persevere through problems, a sense of responsibility and a lifelong love of learning.
She majored in both art and German at Bowling Green State University, then taught a couple years in Grove City before returning to Bowling Green. Myers went on to teach with many art mentors, including Becky Laabs, whose “love of teaching is oozing out of every pore.”
Myers teaches like a parent – loving but stern when necessary. “I like to teach them like a family. I’m the mom.”
“I want to make a difference,” she said.