How to Recognize a Talented Student

For a long time now, I have wanted to recognize the students in my art room who are naturally gifted at art.  Too often, we spend so much time building up the reluctant artists, we can easily forget about that talented artist in the corner who ALWAYS completes the assignments with grace and ease and usually goes beyond our expectations. Usually we tend to simply write those students off, and tell their parents “I’d take 40 of Jon in my class if I could.”

Even when choosing students for our Art Show or Artist of the Month, I sometimes choose students who have improved greatly that month in artistic abilities and behavior, and tend to set aside the most talented student art. I justify this by saying “I can’t choose Beth, again! I could pick every one of her pieces!”  We all know we have these students and have probably had these thoughts.

Then, the epiphany hit.  I was browsing through Arts and Activities Magazine and saw the “Young Artist” feature.  I said to myself “Why couldn’t one of my students be featured in this magazine?”  I have students who do great work and would have an excellent portfolio to submit. Wouldn’t that be an amazing honor?  Instantly one student came to mind. I’d taught this particular girl since kindergarten, and knew everything she touched turned to gold. I called her parents and asked them if they wold be interested in working with me to submit her portfolio to the Young Artist Feature.  They were of course thrilled and helped me work through the application process.  We heard back that she was being considered and soon heard she would be featured in the May 2011 issue of Arts and Activities! Did any of you get that issue?

Here is the one page spread:

The thing that really motived me to do this was thinking back to how an art teacher influenced me in the past, and how it shaped my career today.  If someone wouldn’t have recognized my talent, I would have maybe chosen another profession.  Once I got the idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and had to see it through. Boy am I glad I did! You just never know until you put yourself out there (or your student) what the outcome will be.  One week ago our Board of Education recognized her for her efforts and publication. What special feeling I had as I sat in the audience. I truly believe she will go far!

Have you done anything special to recognize the best artists in your school?

What are other ideas you have to bring the best out of your students by highlighting their talents? 

Want to see who won the giveaway of the book The Pot That Juan Built? Hop on over here and see if it was you! 

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Amy

    I know most schools do not have this opportunity, but one student from every school in our county received a scholarship to take a week-long course at the local art center. This includes the class, room, and board – what an amazing opportunity! I was able to choose a student that excels in art and plans on going to college for something related to art – she is still undecided, but spends every last minute in my classroom that she can.

    For my other naturally talented students I encourage them to enter their work into any art show outside of school, have helped set up job shadowing interviews at museums, organized a visit from a school that does special effects make-up, and encourage them to find a summer job that has something to do with art, no matter what it is, rather than working at a place that has nothing to do with what they want to do in the future.

  • Great suggestions, Amy! I love the idea of a local scholarship for art classes. Every little bit of encouragement helps. Sounds like you do a stellar job!

  • It’s kind of a “tradition” in the elementary schools in our district to have “artists of the month” for each grade level – so when I started teaching there I continued! I purchased 6 16×20″ frames, cut mats to fit, and hung them in the hall outside of my art room. Students can’t wait to see the art every month and teachers and parents are always commenting on how amazing the art looks framed!

  • Our local NAEA celebrates Youth Art Month with an exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum – any state member can submit 2 artists/pieces to be featured in the month-long exhibit so I make sure to get my students’ work included. Besides a parent,teacher and student reception at the Museum, the artists are honored at our school’s end-of-year awards assembly. As editor of the state’s AAEA newsletter, I feature a student artwork on the cover for each issue. Congrats on your student’s artwork featured in Arts & Activities!

  • Very exciting for your young artist!! Quite an accomplishment that I’m sure she’ll be proud of for the rest of her life. Have you ever posted the lesson for the Starry Night lesson? The result is beautiful!