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Harding was right person to lead arts, humanities at Shepherdsville Elementary

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Teachers of the Year: Third in a series

By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - When Shepherdsville Elementary opened eight years ago, principal David Pate knew he wanted to include an Arts and Humanities lab.

Pate came to Shepherdsville from Cedar Grove Elementary. Many of his staff followed, including classroom instructor Kim Harding, whom Pate asked to handle the new lab.

Harding has worked there since, and this year was selected for her efforts as the Bullitt County Public Schools 2013 Elementary Teacher of the Year.

A Louisville native, Harding attended Male High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Louisville studying psychology of the brain.

A potential nursing career changed midstream to teaching. Harding received a Master of Arts Degree in elementary teaching, along with a Rank 1 from Indiana University Southeast.

Harding has a background in, and love for, the arts. Beginning her career at Cedar Grove, she decided to implement arts in the classroom once a week to compensate for a lack of arts in the school at that time.

“It started out that way, and then I added more,” she recalled. “Children needed it and they loved it.”

The appointment by Pate to Shepherdsville’s Arts and Humanities lab allowed Harding to assist all students on a full-time basis.

“Pate has always been my boss,” she said. “We’ve discussed me doing a principal’s job, but I’m waiting for now. I enjoy what I’m doing. I still may be a principal down the road.”

“(Harding) is a big-picture person,” said Pate. “She sees the whole picture of education and knows what it’s all about. (The Teacher of the Year Award) couldn’t go to a more deserving person.”

Pate praised Harding for her numerous educational opportunities provided, ranging from summer art camps to school performances such as the Wizard of Oz.

“They made their own back drops in art class,” he said. “The class atmosphere is fun, and they’re learning and creating their own art.”

Much of Harding’s recent work is centered upon a schoolwide art fair, “Our Hearts Belong in Kentucky.” Harding said the fair would include Appalachian song and dance performances and art works based on state landmarks and history.

Fifth grade students were creating abstract art pieces based on landmarks. Harding said students worked with acrylics and canvas, learning to build a painting “from the back” by sketching and then building up to the details.

The project allows Harding to discuss the works of many various artists throughout history, including famous Kentucky artists. Other student projects included wood whittling and features on historical African-American and Colonial-Era art.

“Fourth graders are featuring Kentucky landscapes,” she said. “Third graders are doing butterflies and focusing on patterns. Second graders are doing flowers. The first grade is working in Folk Art, creating pots, aprons and bags. The Kindergartners are making heart-shaped wooden ornaments and learning paintbrush strokes.”

Harding collaborates with Shepherdsville Music instructor Stacey Stults on ways to teach cultures to students through forms such as dance, music and food.

“You want them to use all their senses,” said Harding. “It helps them try something new. You can’t learn a culture without the arts.”

Harding’s tenure at Shepherdsville allowed her to work with every student since they first began at the school.

“They’ve been with me since Kindergarten,” she said. “The fifth grade, I know what they can master, their techniques. I have a really great job because I always taught them and I know what they’ve been taught. I can get right into lesson plans.”

“She knows what the students are capable of doing,” said Pate. “We’ve got some great artists here. Harding has a knowledge of the curriculum and our kids are at a huge advantage. They get to experience things in arts and humanities that they would never get to experience.”

Harding is a big believer in field trips, allowing students an opportunity to experience art and feed their further interests.

“If I can just build that appreciation,” she said. “That love for art. They don’t have to love all of it. I hope they enjoy being an artist and appreciate having that outlet. I just think art has so many places in people’s lives and there are many styles to try.”

Harding strives to make a difference in her students’ lives, just as one of her teachers made a difference to her.

“My first grade teacher, Ms. Blakeley,” Harding remembered. “I had a rough time in school. Just her compassion was amazing, throughout the year she let me grow. She gave me a safe, secure place to learn and I flourished. She’s the reason I love school. I hope I make my students feel that important.”

Harding still believes she may one day become a principal. With her husband Shane, they are raising their two children, Madison, 10, and Henry, 6. For now, she’s content to maintain her important roles of mother and teacher.

“Teaching is a calling,” Harding said. “If you don’t love it, don’t do it. It’s the love of the children that gets you through.”

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Read Part One of the Bullitt County Teachers of the Year series here.

Read Part Two of the Bullitt County Teachers of the Year series here.