Northwest art teachers propose addition of AP art classes to Blue Valley curriculum

Art teachers Chris LaValley and Melanie Mikel submitted forms for the possible addition of AP art classes to the Blue Valley course options.


Alyssa Peterson

Freshman Reese Gaston sketches her three point perspective project to better represent how people visualize things in real life on Oct. 14. “At first it’s kind of hard, but then you get the hang of it, so it makes it fun,” Gaston said.

Courtney Krebs, Writer

Art teachers Chris LaValley and Melanie Mikel suggested the addition of AP Drawing and AP 2D Art and Design/Photography classes to the Blue Valley curriculum at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. If the proposals are approved, the changes will take place starting at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year in all Blue Valley high schools.

Annually, the Blue Valley executive directors of curriculum and instruction send out a form where staff members can propose the addition of a new course to the Blue Valley course options, or to change the name of an existing one to better fit its curriculum. This is sent out in late August to early September. 

Associate Principal Tyler Alexander said when a proposal is submitted, it goes to the five Blue Valley high school curriculum and instruction principals to be reviewed. If moved through the process, the proposal then goes to an advisory committee which is made up of district office members, school employees, community members and board members. If approved by this committee, the curriculum and instruction principals finalize and refine the course, as well as summarize its goals and content for upcoming years, Alexander said.

After considering the benefits of an AP Drawing class and talking with other Blue Valley high school teachers, LaValley said she wrote a proposal for the new class and submitted it to the Blue Valley curriculum administration. According to LaValley the course is still in the process of being possibly approved.

Mikel, a traditional Film Photography and Drawing II teacher, also submitted a forum for the addition of AP 2D Art and Design/Photography, separately. Mikel said she has been aware of this course being successfully taught for several years in the Independence School District and is friends with a teacher of the course, Karen Campbell, who encouraged her to pursue this option for Blue Valley students.

Furthermore, Mikel said the curriculum board has the power to modify the proposed class if necessary. For example, although Mikel submitted AP 2D Art and Design/Photography as a year long course, there is a possibility that the board will decide for it to last only one semester. They may also slightly modify the overall content and execution of the course to what they see best fit.

Regarding the possible new classes, LaValley said she and Alexander have talked about what the best decisions are moving forward and clarified future plans. LaValley said administration has been very supportive of this possible opportunity for students.

These art classes have previously been available as course options from College Board, but these are the first formal proposals for adding them. The courses would offer college credit the same as all other AP courses. It would give students who enroll in it a college level credit and the curriculum is aligned to be equivalent to that of a four year university or art school. 

LaValley said the curriculum for AP Drawing is rigorous. Students must create a portfolio of at least 15 pieces, along with a writing component for each.

“For instance, in my painting class, the kids probably get four paintings done,” LaValley said. “And now you’re talking about a portfolio where you have to have at least 15 pieces. And most students are not just going to create 15 pieces and call it done.”

LaValley said most students would probably make upwards of 20 pieces, then choose 15 of them for their final submission. The pieces would be graded by AP graders, just like other AP tests. There is a rubric that the students can see while creating their pieces ahead of time so they know what the graders will be looking for.

If the AP Drawing class is approved, LaValley said she anticipates it being popular among students. 

Senior Hayden Feather, a veteran art student, is currently enrolled in is his second semester of Portfolio, a class, he said, students who wish to pursue art after high school commonly take.

“For the arts as a whole, I think it is an incredible step in the right direction,” Feather said regarding the possible course additions. “So often creativity and artistic talent are not seen as something worthwhile so this is extremely validating for those that want to go into a career in the arts.”

BVNW offers two photography classes, each of those a semester long, and Mikel said up to a third of the students currently enrolled in them have already taken them before. She said this goes for film photography and many other art classes as well. Feather has found similar difficulties.

“I have exhausted every single class that the art hallway has to offer,” Feather said.

For students who excel in the arts, LaValley said the possible addition of AP art classes would allow for more inclusive advanced credit options. LaValley said she advocates for the arts to be more widely respected as a beneficial and worthy subject to know. 

“The arts take just as an intelligent brain as other subjects,” LaValley said. “You’re learning creative problem solving, you’re learning to have to think on the fly, and many employers are looking for that.” 

If the classes are approved, students will be available to enroll in them at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year at all Blue Valley high schools.