Art Brings the Stratton Community Together
Posted on 05/19/2022
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This is Brittany Burzinski’s sixth year at Stratton Academy of the Arts, and she couldn’t  imagine herself teaching anywhere else.  


As Stratton’s functional life skills teacher, Burzinski has a self-contained classroom for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders with disabilities who have significant needs for structure, consistency, and foundational skills. What she loves about Stratton is the magnet curriculum and the community of support. “I appreciate the magnet program because it encourages kids to find ways to express themselves,” she says. “That’s especially important in my  class, and I love the opportunity to think creatively about teaching.”  

One second-quarter program she works on is all about the holidays. Her students learn and discuss all the different ways people celebrate their beliefs and cultures. For instance, they created handprint art and developed a list of gratitude that they could share with their families at the annual Thanksgiving Breakfast. Students also painted Santa Claus pictures, which could transform into anything they want. “I love when my students express themselves through their art,” Burzinski beams. “I give them the basic expectation for the assignment, and they run with it and make it theirs.” 

The benefits of working in a magnet program are numerous, but what Burzinski really appreciates is the support from the school. “They’re very open to my ideas and encourage that.” She describes a project with her magnet school coordinator and a UIUC graduate research assistant that involved plastic sheets of mylar. Students in all classes were given the opportunity to draw/create whatever they want on their own individual mylar sheet. Once all of the students completed their sheets, they layered them on top of one another to create a large installation. The idea was to show that Stratton students can be individuals and express themselves, and also come together as a community. “This helps kids develop understanding—to reach out and say hi, instead of looking away.” She and her students take a daily walk through the hallways at Stratton and discuss all the art showcased on the walls. “It’s great for them to see  themselves up there as part of the Stratton community.” 

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