Teacher Spotlight: Art teacher Kandace Potter finds ways to stay positive during Distance-Learning

This article is one in a series of feature stories about how MCPS teachers have adapted to Distance-Learning.

She may not have officially reached YouTube stardom, but Marion County High School art teacher Kandace Potter has found online ways to continue to provide art instruction for her students.

 As the school year began with students learning from home, Potter admits she was “a little worried about demonstration, because a lot of my teaching is one-on-one and actually showing” students techniques. However, by creating time-lapse videos along with voiceovers (and some energetic or soothing background music), which are then uploaded to YouTube, Potter has been able to still provide demonstrations for her students while on Distance-Learning.

 “I’ve found that, for some students, it’s better because they can work at their own pace,” Potter said. “In that way I feel like I've gained a tool even when we’re not Distance-Learning -- more online techniques and tutorials that can be used over and over.”

 Potter said she felt more prepared for Distance-Learning than she did at the end of the previous school year because of the work she did creating playlists. Playlists are essentially a series of lessons students can access and work through online. Teachers throughout MCPS created playlists prior to the start of school.

 In fact, Potter says that the most fun part of Distance-Learning has involved learning how to navigate creating successful online demos. 

 “When we came back to the classroom, my students started calling me Youtuber,” Potter said with a laugh. “It was a running joke because I started the year with 19 followers. It’s pretty funny, but it’s also fun with the classroom culture because they’ll say, ‘Mrs. Potter, you’re going to leave us to become a YouTuber!’”

 Potter also noted how the pandemic has worked its way into student artwork.

 “We do visual journals in my upper level classes where students are given a prompt, and they will create a two-page piece of art,” Potter explained. “At the beginning of school, I gave a prompt about how Covid was affecting them, and I had a lot of strong pieces come out of that. Some were positive and others more dark.

 “There was a lot of that solitary feeling in the artwork.”

 To combat that sense of isolation, Potter has sought ways to maintain the type of class culture she typically builds with students during in-person learning. 

 “From the beginning of virtual learning, I started giving my students a ‘Potter Positive’ for the day,” she explained. “No matter what we’re doing -- because it’s easy to get bogged down in everything we’re not able to do -- I try to put a positive spin on it and say ‘this is a Potter Positive.’ Now I’ve had students who will give their own Potter Positives.”

 So, what makes a Potter Positive?

 “Well, it was Bob Ross’ birthday one day we were in class,” Potter remembered. “Another positive may be that students were able to be at home while they were working on their art. Just quirky things every day. And I try to share small things about my own life. So even when we’re on Zoom I’m able to do that.”

 More than anything else, Potter is attempting to create a positive experience for her students in spite of the obstacles presented this year. 

 “I think [parents] should know that we are all doing the best that we can and we are trying new things while not trying to overwhelm our students and still give them an authentic learning environment.”