An Art Teacher and the Power of Positivity Changes Lives in the Classrooom

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Lonnie Collinsworth has been a high school Art Teacher for 15 years, bringing positivity to his students’ lives since day 1. Through words and art, he encourages his students to express themselves openly and pursue positivity.

“High school students are at a great place in their lives, and the way my class works, I get to watch them grow up and mature,” Collinsworth said about his job, which he confesses that he loves.

“Sometimes, all they need is someone to pay attention and help them along,” he explained.

Collinsworth was inspired by his own Art Teacher, Geane Rhodes, who served as a mentor figure in his life and encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Collinsworth now supports his students just as Rhodes did for him, helping them to grow individually and build confidence about graduating and going to college.

“I want to be there for them, whether as a mentor or just cheering them on,” he said about his active involvement in student life and school activities, including theater, sports and various other events. He is also the Student Council Adviser, which he feels helps him to remain connected with students, as well as their issues and concerns.

The love and support he shares with his students was returned in kind by his students in 2007, when the Art Teacher was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Collinsworth admits that it was a difficult time, but that he received encouragement and support, which helped him stay positive and optimistic. Fortunately in the end, he found out he had been misdiagnosed and had pancreatitis, not cancer.

“It was a miracle story, I’ve heard of people with pancreatic cancer who live for three weeks after finding out, and here I am, all these years later. I didn’t have what they thought I did, even though they were so sure.”

His recovery has been fast and successful, thanks to the community’s support. Collinsworth has since returned to his classroom, where he continues to encourage and inspire his students.