Bodkin Elementary art teacher Jaclyn Cockcroft was recently recognized for her outstanding work inside the classroom.
The Arnold native was one of the 14 teachers from across the county who were named semifinalists for the 2020 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year in December.
A 2001 graduate of Broadneck High School, Cockcroft returned to teach in Anne Arundel County after earning her degree in art education at the University of Maryland in 2006. She knew early on that she wanted to teach.
“I love kids and I thought it would be a perfect mom job,” Cockcroft said. “Summers off, and snow days!”
The challenge at college was deciding what she wanted to teach.
“I think the first six months it was architecture,” Cockcroft said. “But, I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk all the time doing architecture. Then I wanted to teach math, but then art is very imaginative and freeing, and I thought it would be a lot more fun.”
An artist at heart, she grew up watching and creating alongside her grandmother.
“My grandmother is really good at art. She did lots of paintings, and she used to babysit us every Thursday. She’d bring over her easel and her paints, and we would always paint.”
Nowadays she fulfills her inner artist through teaching and through projects on the weekends and summers.
“I do a lot of woodworking,” said Cockcroft, who says it’s easy to go on Etsy and get inspired. “My kids room is kind of actually where it started – I create a lot of artwork for my house and my kids rooms – so that’s fun, and that’s sort of how I fulfil my inner artist.”
In the classroom, she focuses on teaching her young artists the fundamentals by experimenting with a variety of mediums including oil pastels, paint, chalk, clay, paper mache – things they wouldn’t normally get to use in other settings.
“Crayons, markers, colored pencils – those are things that almost every kid has, but it’s the other materials that they don’t have,” she said. “I like to give that opportunity for kids.”
Then there’s the vocabulary and the elements of art that she enjoys building projects around, which help students learn about everything from shapes and patterns, to unity and opposites.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “You develop a great relationship with the kids; I think that’s very important even though I see them for only one hour per week.”
Getting the chance to work with kids and art is a perfect fit for Cockcroft, and she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love being able to shape them and mold them when they’re at 5 and 6 years old, and then, being in elementary, you get to see them grow through the years,” Cockcroft said. “They’re still super creative. You give them open-ended projects, and I can still see the amazing things that they can do.”