Wyoming teacher is passionate about creating art | State and region

When Glen Daniel native Norma Acord chose a major for college, she chose one she thought would be practical and profitable: biology.

But she soon discovered that convenience and profits meant nothing without passion.

Now, about a decade later, Acord is an art teacher at Wyoming East High School, having discovered his passion for art after taking a ceramics class during the second semester of his freshman year.

She was also named Teacher of the Year for Wyoming County Schools for the 2021-2022 school year, confirming to her that she made the right choice in transitioning from science to art.

Acord is also artist-in-residence at the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia in Beckley, where she hopes she can help more children find their passion for art, just as she did.

When asked why she initially chose biology as a major, Acord said she was influenced by her family.

“I think it was always drilled into our heads that you needed a job with money,” she said. “So being a nurse or a physical therapist – something like that, something in the scientific field… My dad would always read the paper and say, ‘Well, they’re hiring nurses. The login bonus is $6,000.’ So I felt that I needed a job that paid a lot.

For this reason, Acord chose biology as her major at Concord University, where she attended in the late 1990s, hoping to one day be able to train to become a physical therapist.

However, Acord quickly found that was not the path for her.

“I failed my first test on the first chapter, and I remember my advisor asking me if I even liked science,” she said.

Hoping to raise her GPA at the start of her second semester, Acord’s roommate suggested she take a ceramics class.

As cliché as it sounds, Acord said this course changed everything for her.

“I quickly realized that my passion was to make ceramics, so I changed my specialty,” she said.

Acord would later earn a studio art degree from Concord University in 2010 before receiving his MFA at the University of Mississippi in 2013.

After grad school, Acord moved back to West Virginia, where she bounced between a few jobs, some of which involved her doing or teaching art and some of which didn’t.

“But the main thing that brought me the most joy was teaching community clay classes. So I was like, ‘Man, how am I teaching art in this state? ‘ “, she said. “So I quit (a job at Tamarack) and started teaching high school, which I never thought in a million years I would be a teacher in a public school.”

Having been at Wyoming East High School for three years, Acord says “it’s the most fun job I’ve ever had.”

“I don’t think we had a strong emphasis on arts education when I was a kid…so I try to emphasize with my students, whatever we listen to in terms of music, or whatever what we see, artwork on the internet, social media, it’s graphic design, it’s all created by someone, it just doesn’t exist in this world, there are people who have the capabilities to do that. And the opportunities are truly endless on what you can create,” she said.

Then in 2021, Acord was approached to be the artist-in-residence at the Museum of Youth following the retirement of the current artist. Acord said one of his main jobs at the Museum of Youth is to organize the creation of 400 ceramic bowls for the annual Empty Bowls event. She also teaches art classes and camps in the summer and develops crafts to accompany the events and festivals that take place in New River Park.

With everything she does at her high school and the Museum of Youth, Accord says it’s all about teaching children about the arts and the vast possibilities available to them.

“Growing up, our family focused a lot on what we could give as a family member – what our roles were…but for me to have that diversity, that your life doesn’t have to be one wife of a coal miner, or the wife of a farmer or farmer,” she said.

“I think that this cultural diversity being instilled at a young age in the children I teach, it is important that they understand that your life is not always as you see it at home. That there are other opportunities there… There are many things you can do with your life, that it doesn’t have to be just a rural setting, that it can be a creative outlet. That you can do something in the arts, and it doesn’t have to be blue-collar work.

Although she turned away from the career path she originally envisioned, Acord said she knows her family, especially her father, who died a few years ago, are proud of the route she took. she chose for her life.

“I think (my dad) would be really proud,” she said. “He was a coach, he was never a teacher, but he was a baseball coach. And I think he understood the impact that positive adults can have on children’s lives, and he was really proud that I was able to do it with my (students).

“I know he would be thrilled for me to be Teacher of the Year. He would have thought it was the coolest thing for someone to choose his little girl as Teacher of the Year.”

Acord said his father was a coal miner, and like many in West Virginia, it was not a career he chose, but the one that chose him.

While he wanted her to be successful, Acord said her father also wanted her to choose something that would also make her happy, as that was not an option for him.

“Kids ask me all the time, ‘Do you like being a teacher? Do you like being an artist?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can do this every day. I love it.'”

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