Art teacher Pat Rainey of Elkhart has plenty to be proud of, but she’s most proud of her students’ art. Whether they’re tissue paper collages, Christmas cards, or award-winning paintings selected for display at the Texas Capitol, Rainey brags on their work.
After 30 years of teaching at Elkhart Elementary and Intermediate schools, which now enroll 600 students each in the Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grades, Rainey’s impact will not soon be forgotten.
Several of Rainey’s former students have become art teachers, and some are now selling their art as professionals. Their success could be due to her commitment to teaching them the principles of art and by formally displaying their work.
She teaches the principles at levels the young students understand so they can use art throughout their lives.
“I tell my students art is a lot like tennis,” Rainey said. “It’s something you can do all of your life.”
For 30 years, Rainey has showcased each student’s best work at an annual art exhibit. She selected their best work and displayed it for an exhibit attended by families and members of the public, who were amazed at the youngest students’ quality of work.
“It really is the best PR for the art program because people are always amazed at what the little ones can do,” Rainey said. “I even had a Pre-K student’s art in the capitol exhibit one year. I’m really proud of what they can do.”
Pre-K students learn the five elements of design: a circle, a dot, a straight line, a curved line, and an angle. Rainey teaches through kinesthetic learning, raising her arms over her head and making a big circle while her students do the same.
“We make a circle in the air with our arms. The top of our head is a marker and we wiggle our heads to fill it in, and they just all crack up,” Rainey said. “I tell them the curved [line] is my favorite because that makes us smile.”
Older elementary students learn more complex art principles such as shape, space, value, and line. She teaches them to show one of the elements in each art project because she wants them to grow as artists.
“They’ll be much farther along learning those as early as possible and reusing them as they go through middle school and high school,” Rainey said. “Then they’ll be more prepared when they get to college.”
Rainey studied art while completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston. She earned a teaching certificate from the University of North Texas in Denton 18 years later after raising her children, and began teaching in Elkhart during the 1991-1992 school year. She taught fifth grade for 11 years and art for the past 19.
Leo Banuelos, a 2020 graduate of Elkhart schools and a current student at Texas A & M University, remembers taking Rainey’s art classes. He said he doesn’t consider himself an artist, but Rainey always had an art project he could do.
Rainey’s daughter, Natalie Thompson of Elkhart, said her mother has had an impact on many lives by teaching generations of students, and is looking forward to teaching art classes from a home studio.
“She’s an amazing teacher and we’re really proud of her,” Thompson said.