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Briarlake Elementary School art teacher uses classroom as her student's canvas

FOX 5 January 26, 2024

By Alex Whittler | DeKalb County | FOX 5 Atlanta

A Briarlake Elementary School students could soon work in more accessible classrooms.

Amy Sery is one of the teachers there is in the final round of a national competition that will pay four teachers $40,000 for new classroom furniture. Ms. Sery says if selected, her students will work in more accessible classrooms.

Bright paint-splattered easels and posters, colored pencils and glue sticks make up a large portion of Sery's art class, but in a way, the room itself is her canvas. 

"I don't have much time to do art at home, so this space has become my artwork," she said.

Inside Ms. Sery's Briarlake Elementary art classroom

For ten years, Ms. Sery has taught at Briarlake Elementary School, but since 2016, students have found comfort and empowerment in her art class. 

"The way I teach art is very different," she said. "I don't like to use color wheels. I give them paint, and they find mixing those three colors makes brown."

She encourages her students to get messy, make mistakes and make their own decisions. In doing so, "behavior problems disappear," she said.

Sery will find out soon whether her classroom makeover pitch from a video submitted convinced enough people her classroom deserves a $40,000 makeover. Furniture maker KI reviewed hundreds of proposals from teachers nationwide. They have narrowed their search down to 12.

Vote for Dr. Sery’s Visual & Media Arts Classroom | KI Classroom Furniture Giveaway 

"Once I get into something, I really get into it," she said. "I measured my room and made sure the choices, it made sense for my student population." 

"We have a [deaf and hard of hearing] population, so we have an interpreter in here, so we can have a lot of bodies." Ms. Sery said. "It'll be nice for students to sit in stools... listen and focus through the interpreter to make things easier as well."

In that proposal, there are elevated tables and a variety of seating options for every ability.

"My daughter is also in a wheelchair. It'll be nice for her knees not to hit tables, because I'll be able to lift them higher," she said.

It's a selfless pitch that, if approved, will turn Ms. Sery's classroom-sized canvas into more of a sanctuary.

You can have a say in this competition by voting for Ms. Sery's pitch by clicking here

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