As a kindergarten teacher, Amy Nichols of Clermont knows how important it is to connect with her students, make them feel special, and help them to love learning. Distance learning has made it more challenging, but not impossible.

Nichols, an aspiring children’s author who teaches at Pine Ridge Elementary, has combined her love for children’s books and her artistic talent to create personalized masterpieces for each of her students while they are physically separated. Specifically, she is creating chalk drawings featuring her students’ favorite book characters, and on each drawing she includes an encouraging statement that fits that particular student’s unique personality – Nichols’ favorite part of the project!

“I asked my kindergarten students to share the characters with me the week before I started my first picture,” said Nichols, who has taught in Lake County for 15 years. “I didn’t give any details into what I was going to do. I enjoy surprises, and I know my students do, too! My son joins me in the excitement each morning and pulls a student’s name with their chosen character out of a jar. The selected student’s character is the surprise drawing of the day!”

One image of an elephant and a pig from the book I’m a Frog by Mo Willems says, “You are a true friend, Olivia!””

Another image of a dog and cat from the book, Where is Love, Biscuit? by Alyssa Satin Capucilli says, “Love is in Amelia’s heart!”

Each 8-foot by 8-foot drawing is signed “Love, Mrs. Nichols,” and a photograph of the drawing – often including a picture of the teacher — is shared with the families through Class Dojo.

“I think the students appreciate seeing me working in action,” said Nichols, who has no formal art training outside of classes she took in high school 20 years ago. “I’ve had parents tell me that they are going to enlarge and frame the pictures I’ve sent them. That makes this teacher’s heart so happy!”

She has made six chalk drawings so far. With 15 students in her class – and 2 students who moved away mid-year but are still considered part of the class – there are many more drawings to come before the end of the school year. There might even be a grand finale drawing after the final student’s drawing has been completed.

The ultimate goal is to promote literacy and make each student feel special.

“I hope that my students will see how much I think about them and miss them,” Nichols said. “It’s challenging and difficult at times to not be able to see and connect with them face-to-face every day. Taking some time as I draw each picture to focus on each particular student, while thinking about how special they are to our class and to me, and even praying for them while I work, has been my favorite part of the day. I also hope that they can see from these drawings that every single one of them has unique gifts, qualities and talents that they should celebrate!”



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