Alexander City Middle School (ACMS) art teacher Sherri Campbell walked around her class Wednesday looking at students’ pastel birds they were coloring. She stopped and asked every student about the birds they chose.
“Middle school kids are really talented and they’re just getting into their fine motor abilities,” Campbell said. “It’s not as much teaching them how to do the actual skills. It’s developing their creativity and that’s a little bit different when it’s so skills-based and so exposure-based for elementary school.”
Campbell has taught for 22 years around the state and two years in Alexander City Schools. This is her first year teaching art at ACMS and she taught math at Radney Elementary School last year.
Campbell grew up in Montgomery and was studying to be a college art professor when she realized she’d rather teach children. She got her master’s degree in education instead and has taught in regular classrooms for 11 years and art rooms for the other half of her career at elementary schools.
“There’s no downtime, there’s no rest and I find that to be true in the academic classroom and elective classroom,” Campbell said. “A lot of people think elective courses are somehow easier or are less intense in some way. In some ways they are and some ways they’re not.”
Because she’s taught both academic and elective classes she has a wider perspective on what she teaches and how hard both sides are.
“I can do a little bit less complaining having seen both sides so I’ve enjoyed that part of my career,” Campbell said.
Campbell enjoys teaching middle school especially because the students are developing their own skills and interests.
Campbell specializes in pottery and works at her home in Birmingham. She also does sculptures and creates jewelry.
“I also love how they’re excited by the materials, the paint, the glue, the scissors, the yarn, anything different,” Campbell said. “If it wasn’t worthwhile every day I wouldn’t do it.”
Dealing with student attitudes can be difficult at this age level, but Campbell said she makes sure to talk to her students about how they’re acting.
“It’s hard work but it’s rewarding work because I hear them listening, I see them responding,” Campbell said. “So I feel like I’m actually helping guide some of their development. There’s days when it’s hard than others, but most days middle school is my very favorite level I’ve ever taught.”
Campbell called the students “almost grown-ups” and said it’s really fun to teach them.
“They’re still kids enough to be willing to try some things and take the risk, but they’re grown-ups enough to be able to take responsibility and listen, follow directions, understand what I’m talking about,” Campbell said. “It’s hard to explain to anyone who is not in a job in education what it’s like because in some ways it’s the most difficult job I can imagine. In other ways it’s the easiest most natural thing to do all day. It’s fast. It’s constant all day every day.”