WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

Art teacher Stephanie Robinson stands with kindergartners at Sapelli School holding their works that have been posted online. From left are June Douthwright, Willow Hadley, William Couture and Antonio Padillia.

Reminder Publishing photo by Mike Lydick

AGAWAM — During her decade-long career as an elementary school art teacher, Stephanie Robinson has been aware of Artsonia, a website that features millions of examples of online student art portfolios, but only recently began posting student artwork on the site.

Since September, Robinson, who teaches at Sapelli and Phelps schools in Agawam, has posted more than 3,400 pieces of finished artwork — 1,377 from students at Sapelli and 1,752 from students at Phelps.

“Unfortunately, I can’t take pictures of all the artwork, but I do my best to get most of them documented,” she said.

Stephanie Robinson, who teaches art to K-4 students at Sapelli and Phelps schools, travels from classroom to classroom for her 30-minute lessons with art supplies loaded on her cart.
Reminder Publishing photo by Mike Lydick

Robinson, who is working on her master’s degree in art education, said Artsonia was highly recommended by her art teacher at the online Art of Education University, which is specifically for art teachers. Artsonia has the largest collection of student art from around the world. Parents and family can view the art online, leave comments about their child’s work and order keepsakes featuring the artwork from the site’s giftshop.

“The reaction from the parents has been very positive,” said Robinson. “I love reading their comments — they’re both heartwarming and encouraging. It’s also great because parents can share the account with grandparents or family members living far away.”

Since Robinson doesn’t have a classroom at either school, she travels from room to room with a cart loaded with art supplies. She said because her art classes are only 30 minutes long, it’s often difficult to look at her students’ artwork during the bustle of setting up and cleaning up.

Robinson, who has been teaching in Agawam for five years, said the website is a “great tool” for her as a teacher.

“I can only observe while I’m walking around while they’re working. Having a digital view of their art gives me a different perspective and more time to really see if they have understood the concept or technique we’re working on in class.”

Since Artsonia also tracks all the artwork over time, she can not only see the growth of their skills, but posting the artwork also alleviates the need to keep a physical copy.

“Let’s be honest, we all know that artwork sometimes get squished down at the bottom of students’ backpacks,” said Robinson, who teaches more than 300 students at each school.

She added that the website keeps student artwork indefinitely, so students can look at their kindergarten artwork when they’re in high school.

Artsonia offers families the ability to turn their children’s art into printed products, for a cost. Available items range from $2.95 postcards to $59.95 for large canvas prints, with a variety of products in between. While Robinson doesn’t have access to see exactly what products families are purchasing, she has seen some examples from students.

“I’ve seen more than one student come into school to excitedly show me their artwork on their T-shirt,” she said. “I’ve also heard from a few parents that the products have been good quality. Parents have told me they’ve purchased everything from coffee mugs to computer mouse pads. Christmas ornaments are also a big hit with families.”

Robinson said Artsonia’s original focus was to house digital portfolios for families to share and for art teachers to keep track of what lessons and artwork was created.

“However, to fund their company, they came up with the idea of printing artwork on merchandise to sell, and then decided to donate 20% of merchandise revenue back to school. Art departments can use the money to purchase art materials or copies of the artwork for their school,” she said.

Robinson said she loves the enthusiasm of her students and how excited and eager they are to learn new things when she comes to teach art: “I love that I get to teach them from kindergarten through fourth grade. I watch them grow through the years and then they move on to middle school.”

The website also offers award recognition when schools reach various levels that range from 1,000 to 200,000 pieces of submitted artwork. Robinson has received recognition at the 1,000 level for both schools and is working toward the 5,000 level.

Although Artsonia helps Robinson connect with families, she said there are many different ways other art teachers in the district connect with families.

“Some art teachers participate in large school-wide events, or have art shows to showcase artwork. All of these options are time-consuming, and we as art teachers put a lot of our own time into sharing our students’ work,” she said.

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts