2021 T.O.Y. Finalist - Kelly Potter

Meet Kelly Potter

Middle/High School Visual Arts, Trillium Academy

15 years ago, as a new teacher, Kelly Potter joined Trillium Academy as their arts teacher. Over the years she's had the opportunity to develop more than 20 different art curriculums some even coming from trying a new lesson. The basketball players who inspired the textile and sewing class might play tough guys to everyone else, Kelly saw them learning applicable life skills and enjoying themselves. Her classroom is a place where students feel safe to express their opinions even when they don't agree, as well as stop back years in the future to remind her that she was influential. Sometimes even giving her tokens of their appreciation - usually, art that they see in the wild. 

In her innovation efforts this year, Kelly decided to make a Virtual Art Gallery that features students, staff, and alumni. She wanted students to feel like they were walking through an art gallery while viewing this. 

A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Kelly Potter.
A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Kelly Potter.
A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Kelly Potter.

How do you know that you made a lasting impression on students?

I started an after-school program at our school called The Art Factory. Students in middle school and high school plan murals and other art projects to do around the school to make it more beautiful and to make it their own. Art Factory members are so proud of our work and I've observed them walking by a mural on the wall and saying, "I was a part of the group that painted that." These students take pride in our school building and space because they had an active role in helping to make it special. I am also proud of how many of my students have gone on to study visual arts in college. I spend time explaining possible careers involving the arts and helping students put together their portfolios. I am in communication with and continue to help, students who have become woodworkers, graphic designers, illustrators and art teachers. During the spring of 2020, I put together a virtual Trillium Academy alumni art show featuring the art of over 15 former students.

What are you involved in outside of your classroom?

I run our school's Interact program which is a volunteer organization whose motto is Service Over Self. We have continued our group even though we have been virtual. We meet weekly and have virtual game nights every few months. Last year we fundraised enough money through bake sales to rent a bus to take us to a youth homeless shelter in Detroit. We cooked and fed over 50 young adults. Many students say this was the most meaningful thing they've done in high school. In the fall we held a glove drive for a local homeless shelter and raised money to purchase 12 Thanksgiving dinners to members of our Trillium Family who were in need of some extra help. We are currently running a bonfire.com fundraiser for World Central Kitchen with a goal of raising $400. I am also a part of our school's teacher mentor program. I have been a mentor for new teachers for the past 7 years, as well as a class sponsor for high school students. This year I took on a new role, working for the Yearbook Committee. Because of our virtual learning situation, we don't have a student-led yearbook class. I still want students to have an opportunity to have their memories bound in book form so I volunteered to help put the yearbook together.

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