Charles County art teacher, Rachel Proctor, a nominee for The Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year award, infuses her lifelong love for art into her unique teaching method, inspiring creativity among her students at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School.
Since childhood, Proctor has been drawn to the transformative power of art. From upcycling discarded items into unique creations to studying mediums like photography and ceramics, art has always been a fundamental part of her life. Now, she imparts this passion to her students, using her creativity to guide them toward producing meaningful art.
Proctor began teaching at Mt. Hope in 2008 as a fourth-grade teacher. In 2019, she transitioned into her current role as the school’s art teacher, a position her peers laud for her adept handling. Margo Barbone, a retired science teacher, praises Proctor’s ability to craft engaging and impactful lessons. “Rachel is one of the most creative teachers I have ever worked with,” Barbone said. “She has a natural gift for creating lessons that are meaningful.”
At the core of Proctor’s teaching philosophy is the belief in guiding her students through their creative projects. She allows students the autonomy to make their own choices, such as selecting color schemes but provides them with the structure to follow. This approach has been applauded by the school administration, with Principal Mike Hoffman describing Proctor’s classroom as a “highly student-centered learning environment.”
A significant part of Proctor’s approach involves illustrating the potential of art beyond a hobby, demonstrating how art-related skills can lead to careers in various fields. The students greatly appreciate her innovative methods of connecting them to the curriculum. Penny Kriebel, a former student, lauds Proctor’s commitment to making learning enjoyable and her dedication to ensuring students grasp complex concepts.
Proctor’s dedication extends beyond the art room. She works with younger students on reading skills, coaches the school’s math team, and participates in academic nights, paint nights, and community art shows. Even as she juggles various roles, Proctor continues to pursue her personal art endeavors, creating murals for local businesses and participating in local art events.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Proctor adapted her teaching method to ensure that her students could continue their artistic journeys remotely. Recognizing that some students lacked basic art supplies at home, she helped provide sketchbooks to them.
Proctor, a product of Charles County Public Schools (CCPS), credits her school art teachers for nurturing her love for art. She is proud to continue that tradition at Mt. Hope, a school she says is a “good little secret.”
Although Proctor didn’t win The Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year award for 2023, her commitment to educating and inspiring her students through art remains undimmed. She is slated to be recognized by the Board of Education at its June 13 meeting.
Ultimately, Proctor’s goal is to illustrate the power of the arts to her students, her school, and her community. She believes that art has had a transformative effect on her life and hopes to pass that experience on to others. She says, “I want my students, my school, and my community to see how powerful the arts can be.”