Local teacher wins award for creative art education

Chuck Ruffino, elementary art teacher at Lake Shore Central School District, was recently awarded the Friends of Prevention award at the beginning of the Bisons family day game at the Coca-Cola Field. While presenting the award, Erie County Legislator Edward Rath noted that Ruffino achieved 100 percent participation from students in the AJ Schmidt Elementary School in the “First Night Buffalo” poster contest. Through creative teaching strategies, kindergartners through fifth grade learned the principles of design and elements of art while developing their posters. Color, shape, lines and texture came alive through posters promoting drug and alcohol free lifestyles. Three AJ Schmidt students won first, second and third places and received awards from Mayor Brown in December.

“Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new techniques, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence,” according to Dr. Joseph M. Calahan, vice president, Xerox Founda-tion.

The 2005 report by the Rand Corporation on visual arts, found that “art can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing, creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.”

Ruffino’s dedication in the art classroom in connecting children to healthy living decisions promoted by WNY United represents just such an example of how art education can make a difference in the lives of children and the world in which they live. Julie McCarthy, prevention specialist for Lake Shore Central School District, observed firsthand the excitement and energy in Ruffino’s classrooms and nominated him for the 2013 Art Educator Friends of Prevention award.

While the Friends of Prevention award honored his work at Lake Shore Elementary School, Ruffino in partnership with Lin Liedke, a former fourt-grade teacher and current professor at SUNY Fredonia, takes art education outside the formal classroom and into the community. Their program, Great Lake FX teaches children to develop a sense of respect, responsibility, and ownership for the community in which they live. By using the environment as an integrated, hands-on context for learning, Great Lake FX brings art, nature, math, science and history to life through educational activities and lessons.

In accepting his award, Ruffino noted, “Teaching art is the best job in the world. Unfortunately, the importance of funding the visual arts and arts education in schools is too often overshadowed by today’s ‘core curriculum.’ It takes a truly visionary funder to appreciate the need for thinking outside of the ‘big box’ and to support the arts at its most basic level: Where children become the foundation of all imagination.”