When Katie Pourcho, an art teacher at Danville North Elementary School, learned that she had been recognized as Indiana’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, she knew she wanted to take her students with her.
“I decided to become a traveling art gallery and use my clothes as a canvas,” Pourcho said. “I had my kids design briefcases, shoes, shirts, dresses, earrings and more. Some of the pieces were from selected students and some were from an entire class.
Much of the work was done via online learning as spring 2020 led to shelter-in-place orders and school closures due to the pandemic, but even within a school year difficult spring, Pourcho was inspired by what her students were creating.
“Even from home they would submit designs and on the days that I was super disappointed or sad not to see them, it was nice to go to my home art studio and copy my students’ designs on those clothes,” Pourcho said.
The process to become a teacher of the year is quite long.
Each school district in Indiana nominates two teachers (one elementary and one middle/high school) and those names go through a rigorous nomination process. Pourcho submitted his resume, participated in interviews and even gave a speech in front of several judges.
Those responsible for selecting the next Teacher of the Year include former Teachers of the Year, stakeholders and the Ministry of Education administration who narrow down the selection from 30 to 20 and so on.
Once a teacher is appointed, they move on to the pool at the national level.
“We are placed in a cohort of teachers every year from every state and territory,” Pourcho said. “The first time we all met was at Google HQ and they gave us lots of conversation tips and travel information in several different places. Of course it was different for us because at by then, COVID had arrived.
Despite delays and multiple cancellations, Pourcho was still able to attend space camp this summer (wearing a galaxy-inspired blazer) and even won a regional Emmy for his art-related project with WFYI. The grand finale was a trip to Washington, DC, for a White House event and gala honoring teachers.
“I chose a second-grader to be the lead designer for the dress I would wear to the White House and when we got back to school, several other kids contributed some of that design. The gala dress was created by several children who submitted designs,” Pourcho said.
She walked into the White House with a painted pair of shoes, custom-designed earrings, a custom purse, and a dress designed for children.
“At each event, I tried to represent our artists,” Pourcho said. “I met President Biden and the First Lady for a few seconds and met several senators in less than a minute, but because I wore clothes with children’s hands all over it spoke for me well. respects.”
This month, the drawings are featured in an exhibit at the Indiana Statehouse.
The Indiana State Museum worked with the Indiana Arts Commission and loaned four mannequins and a pedestal for the exhibit.
Visitors will see four complete outfits and a variety of accessories.
“It’s cool to be in this space because that’s where our legislators and our lobbyists are. There is also an interactive element,” Pourcho said. “There are questions like, ‘When was the last time you were in an art room?’ and information on how fashion can speak without words.
Another piece is currently on display at the Danville Public Library, and although it is not yet official, the Indiana State Museum has inquired about one of the pieces in the museum.
Pourcho recently took 33 college students on a field trip to the Indiana Statehouse to see their work on display.
“We were able to spend time with Dr. [Katie] Jenner who really took the time to talk to the kids and ask them questions. We visited with State Representative Young, Senator Braun and State Representative Thompson,” Pourcho said. “I think the big highlight was visiting the governor’s office and we met Governor Holcomb, the first lady and the first dog, Henry, was there. They circled around the dog and the governor, and he was such a good listener and answered so many questions.
Although the 2022 Teacher of the Year has been named – Sharita Ware with Tippecanoe School Corporation – Pourcho’s journey is far from over. Former teachers are often asked to speak, sit on a panel and develop connections, but the experiences shared by Pourcho and his students will not be soon forgotten.
“I thought it was a great educational experience. He shows kids different career paths and they got to see how commissioning works and see their work come to life. It’s always been really important to me that students and the community see what little hands can create,” Pourcho said. “There is so much power in there. With so little time with such important people, fashion has the power to make a statement when words just aren’t enough. I wanted my students to be part of it. »
Visit the Indiana State Museum by the end of March to see the Pourcho exhibit.