NEW PORT RICHEY — Third-grader Harmony Broxton was shocked, and art teacher Jessica Stoneking was surprised at the Pasco Fine Arts reception of the Kids N Art Exhibition on March 7. Harmony's chalk drawing claimed Best of Show, and Stoneking was presented the Teacher Award. Both are from Seven Springs Elementary School.
Harmony's creation was her first try at using chalk.
"I did it because I love doing art, but I like painting best," she said.
Harmony's mom, Tanya Jones, and grandmother, Henrietta Jones, attended the reception and were thrilled.
"I tried to hold it together but, in the car my mom and I cried like babies. We will remember that day forever," said Tanya, who said she has worked to encourage Harmony's love of art.
And Stoneking has encouraged children to try different techniques and materials.
"Harmony's one who absolutely shines when she walks in my room. She has a clear vision of what she wants to do, and she does it," said Stoneking.
The annual contest is open to Pasco County students in kindergarten through fifth grade. This year, it drew 68 entries. First-, second- and third-place awards were given at each grade level and for those who learn on an individual education plan. Sponsor donations paid for the awards.
Jo Baughman, director of the Pasco Fine Arts Council, ensures the artwork is matted and hung gallery-style in the Council center at 4145 Fairford Drive in New Port Richey.
Baughman said about 125 people attended the reception. Artwork was displayed for the month of March.
"Parents continued to come days after the reception and were thrilled to see what children are doing," said Baughman.
Stoneking was honored for guiding children to express themselves through their art. She's been at Seven Springs since 2015 and each year allows students to create work for the exhibit.
"For me it's far more important that a child make something they are proud of than learning something specific like primary colors," she said. "When they are proud of what they've done, it melts my heart." Stoneking also was Seven Springs' Teacher of the Year in 2017.
Her classroom walls are lined with children's creations. Her instructions are clear, but she allows each student to choose how their artwork appears.
"We have an incredible gift in Mrs. Stoneking as our art teacher," said Todd Cluff, Seven Springs principal. "She helps students embrace their love of art. Harmony Broxton is a wonderful example of how nurturing that love can produce awesome results."
For pictures of winning entries go to pascoarts.org
Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. She writes feature stories with an education focus for Pasco and Hernando counties. She can be reached at email@example.com.