Like many college students, Guilford County School’s (GCS) Director of Fine Arts Leigh Ann Little ‘06 was trying to find her way when she started at UNC Greensboro (UNCG) more than a decade ago.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I was just trying to put some feelers out,” Little says. “I was taking some design classes and a math course. But then I was also doing a lot of yoga because I thought I maybe wanted to be a yoga instructor.”
FINDING HER PASSION
It was several UNCG faculty members that gave Little the push to enter the art education field. First was Nicki Blair, a ceramics and sculpture professor in the School of Art.
“Watching Nicki Blair and learning from her helped me realize that art education was what I wanted to do. I wanted to share my love for art and be a teacher,” Little says.
Little’s plan was to eventually become an art professor at the collegiate level. And while Blair inspired her to share her passion, former UNCG professor Roberta Rice taught her how to share that passion.
“She taught us how to build all of these resources and create portfolios that really demonstrated what we understood,” says Little. “We had to learn how to scaffold information and make sure you build skill sets for students, so they’re successful.”
After graduating from UNCG with a bachelors of fine arts in art education in 2006, she began teaching visual art at Northeast Guilford High School. Seven years later, she moved to Eastern Guilford High School.
In 2015, she became the Personalized Learning Coordinator for GCS – working with teachers on how to implement technology in the classroom. And in 2017, she became the Supervisor of Fine Arts, helping with curriculum and instruction. In between, she earned a graduate degree and an administrative certification as well.
A PERFECT MIX
It was her love for the arts and curriculum that led to her new role – Director of Fine Arts at Guilford County Schools.
“With good curriculum and knowledge, teachers can really grow students in their skill set while creating lifelong learners and lovers of the arts. And that’s what I wanted,” says Little.
In the position, she works with all music, dance, theater and visual art teachers in the district. The job includes curriculum support, placement of arts teachers throughout the district, budgeting, planning arts exposure opportunities for students and community outreach.
And it’s a community Little knows well. She was born-and-raised in the Guilford County/Greensboro area.
“I am a champion for teachers at their schools,” Little says. “So if they feel like they need something, or they need someone from the district to explain why something is important to their school and why they might need certain resources, I’m the person that they can contact.”
For Little, one of the highlights of her position is working with teachers to bounce ideas off one another and create the best learning experience for the students.
“I work with new and experienced teachers, but I love watching their ‘aha moments,’ or seeing excitement and the relationships that they have with their students every day,” says Little.
A STRONG CONNECTION
Little isn’t the only GCS administrator with UNCG ties – district Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley ‘11 earned her doctoral degree in educational leadership from the School of Education.
“There are so many people that work in Guilford County Schools that have worked with UNCG. And there are so many people that work at UNCG that have connections to Guilford County Schools. It’s a very strong connection,” said Dr. Oakley in September.
The connection to UNCG and keeping students in the area is something Oakley says is important to her as the leader of GCS – the second largest school district in North Carolina.
“I really think people need to know that it’s a great place to live and to work. And I think as educators in Guilford County Schools, we are very intentional about opportunities for career growth and development and career pathways,” says Dr. Oakley.
Making a difference for educators and students – just like the UNCG educators did for Little – is something she is carrying on.
“If I didn’t have that skill set from UNCG and the knowledge that Dr. Rice and Nicki helped me build, I wouldn’t have been successful in my other programs,” Little says. “I needed the organizational skill set that Dr. Rice gave me. And Nicki taught me it’s okay to not be perfect, but to just share your passion with everyone and hopefully you’re helping someone else to realize their passion and ignite a flame.”
SHARE YOUR PASSION FOR ART AT UNCG
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications