published Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Catoosa art teacher wins leadership honor


by Kelli Gauthier

Larry Bunch uses Renoir to teach geography and Picasso to teach math.

Visual art — drawing, painting, sculpture and photography — has a way of keeping kids hooked on school and on learning and making academic concepts and facts stick in students’ brains, said Bunch, a 30-year veteran Catoosa County art teacher.

He will be honored today by the Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders program.

“First of all, I’m touched. For [my colleagues] to see the value in your work that you’ve spent many years developing ... that’s enough right there,” Bunch said.

One of five Georgia arts educators who were nominated by their colleagues and chosen to be honored, Bunch will receive $2,500 that he can donate to the arts program of his choice.

The money he receives will go toward providing scholarships for underprivileged students to attend Catoosa County’s art camp — which Bunch created — as well as buying art supplies to replace those the system lost when its 5-year-old arts center on Ringgold High School’s campus was destroyed by the April tornadoes.

Although his building and supplies were destroyed as he was taking the final applications for art camp, Bunch said he felt compelled to still put on the camp — an experience he makes sure to say isn’t “crafty.”

“This was the perfect opportunity to say, ‘OK, we lost the building. I don’t even have a stapler,’” he said. “I thought, if I can find a place to do it, let’s have art camp.”

The camp usually is held in Ringgold High School’s Beth Kellerhalls Visual Arts Center, but it was wrecked by the tornadoes, so this year’s camp will be held at Heritage High School. But the location doesn’t really matter, Bunch said.

“The Ringgold art center is so much more than just brick and mortar; let’s prove it,” he said.

So art camp went on, this year in a vocational classroom at Heritage High.

Natalie Grasso, enterprise education project coordinator for the Woodruff Arts Center, said Bunch, whom she met last year, embodies the mission of the Woodruff Salutes program.

“They infuse actual lessons into the arts at this camp. Even though the students are having fun and using their hands, they’re learning through it, too,” she said. “Our mission involves learning in and through the arts, so that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. It’s not two separate concepts; you can learn through the arts.”

In addition to his regular duties as an art teacher at Ringgold High School and creator of the summer art camp, Bunch, who will retire this year from Catoosa County, took it upon himself to offer a multi-disciplinary art program in which elementary teachers could bring their students to Bunch’s Ringgold High classes.

Lindsay Wells first met Bunch in 1995 during her sophomore year at Ringgold High. She already knew she was interested in pursuing arts education at the Georgia Institute of Technology, but Bunch’s passion for students inspired her to teach. Her first job teaching art was alongside her mentor at Ringgold High in 2003.

“He’s one of those teachers where the passion and dedication is as genuine as it can be. Students see that he has high expectations,” she said. “The students respect him for that.”

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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