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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seventh grader teaches art to second grade students at Riverbend Elementary

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Kacie Jackson’s class of second-graders at Riverbend Elementary in Greenacres happily spent an hour Tuesday morning learning how to draw.

They started with a square grid of evenly spaced dots. Artist Sindhu Surapaneni, a seventh-grader at Selkirk Middle School, showed students how to connect the dots into X’s and then start adding curved lines going in different directions, one segment at a time. She led them through each step as the drawing started to take shape.

“Oh, wings!” one student said.

After about 20 minutes, the students were able to turn a grid of dots into a bald eagle, which students then colored with oil pastel crayons.

“We want to do our best to stay in the lines,” Surapaneni said.

She showed them how to use a ruler to make a second, larger grid of dots roughly in the shape of a hexagon. She taught the students to connect the various dots with triangles and hearts until it created the shape of a flower.

Jackson said it was happenstance that led Surapaneni to her classroom. Another teacher in the school had posted a request online for more books for her classroom. Surapaneni’s mother saw the post and offered books, which the teacher came to her house to collect. While the teacher was there, she saw the art that Surapaneni had made and her mother said that Surapaneni loved teaching children.

Since then, Surapaneni has visited each second-grade classroom at Riverbend at least once, and some she’s been in multiple times. Jackson said she was excited to have her visit her classroom.

“I love being able to expose them to as much as possible,” Jackson said. “Art is one thing where they come alive. They love it.”

During the pandemic, it was difficult to bring in guests to offer enriching activities, Jackson said.

“We love having special guests in,” she said. “It’s nice to have people back, finally, in the classroom.”

It was during the pandemic that Surapaneni first started teaching art to children. With schools closed, she found herself with free time, so she started doing Facebook Live sessions for children.

She also enhanced her own art skills at the same time. Last spring, she was named a “Student Star” in the Duke University Talent Identification Program magazine for one of her drawings. Last fall, she was nominated for a Spokane Arts Award for inclusion for one of her paintings. When she has sold her art or charged for art lessons, she has donated the proceeds to organizations like Blessings Under the Bridge and Giving Backpacks.

Surapaneni said she was happy to come to Jackson’s class and has also visited some of the kindergarten and first-grade classes in the school. She said she has a study hall for her second period at Selkirk and uses that time to come to Riverbend to teach art.

“I heard that this school doesn’t have an art program,” she said. “They don’t have the funding for it. I just wanted to teach art.”

At the end of Tuesday’s lessons, the students proudly stood next to Surapaneni and held up their art for a group photo.

“Wow, they look so good,” Surapaneni told the students. “They all look different and unique.”

Editor’s note: This story was changed on June 15, 2022 to correct the spelling of Sindhu Surapaneni’s first name.