Art is good for the soul! Here at Licking R-VIII School District this statement is especially true thanks to two teachers who work hard to help students tap into their unique creativity. Mrs. Leah Sullins graduated from Licking High School in 1993. An avid volleyball player, Mrs. Sullins continued her sport into her college years at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. While Mrs. Sullins knew she loved art, she wasn’t sure how she would make a career of it. A product of two parents heavily involved in public education, one a counselor and one an elementary teacher, Mrs. Sullins recalled her father’s warning, “You’d better find a way to make a career of it because I’m not raising a starving artist”. Mrs. Sullins changed her major from history to art education, and in 1997, she graduated with a degree in teaching that she quickly used with Rolla Public School District. “I started teaching in January 1998, and I stayed in Rolla for twenty years in a K-4 building. I loved it, but I missed my family, and the drive was getting long,” Mrs. Sullins remembered. Making a career of art is exactly what Mrs. Sullins has done.
Mrs. Delanie Rinne graduated high school in Garden City, Kansas in 1999, along with more than 600 other classmates. An accomplished tennis player, Mrs. Rinne continued accelerating in academics and athletics at Evangel University in Springfield, MO. Maximizing her tennis and academic scholarships, Mrs. Rinne double majored in elementary education and cross categorical special education. Mrs. Rinne began her teaching career in special education at Central High School in 2003 where she co-taught in an Integrated Math class with her husband, Dr. Jarad Rinne. “It was an incredible experience teaching together, and I was inspired by his balance of creativity and practical application of math,” Mrs. Rinne recalled. After getting married in 2005, Mrs. Rinne stayed home with her young children for twelve years and returned to the classroom full time in Licking. “Mrs. Connie Buckner shared resources and ideas, and I was excited for the opportunity to work with students in art from kindergarten through seventh grade,” Mrs. Rinne remarked.
While teaching full time, both teachers found their passion for art. Both mothers of children enrolled in the district, Mrs. Sullins and Mrs. Rinne enjoy the peace of mind having their families right here on campus with them. “My children and I used to have different schedules…different spring breaks, different days off…and now we can enjoy our time off together,” Mrs. Sullins reflected. While it was a challenging transition from elementary teaching to the high school classroom, Mrs. Sullins believes the roles are connected. “Young people need to have an opportunity to express themselves, to take chances with different mediums and just be creative,” said Mrs. Sullins. Mrs. Rinne agreed. “I feel like I have the best of both worlds – I love elementary instruction, but I love my 7th graders, too!”
While there are challenges within the workdays for these ladies, they both believe they have a calling to help young people have fun with creativity. They encourage children not to be intimidated by the need to make “art” every time they sit down to work, but rather, to get enjoyment from painting, ceramics, pen and ink drawings, or sketches. “Art is a great stress reliever…a great hobby,” says Mrs. Sullins. “I try not to take it personally if high school students are resistant when they start in Art I. I feel really motivated, even at this point in my career, to keep teaching fresh, to gather new ideas wherever I can find them, and to find ways to excite kids to come to my class.”
“I have found that students put a lot of pressure on themselves,” Mrs. Rinne reflected. “I encourage them to have a sense of freedom to create rather than want to continue starting over because something isn’t perfect.” Mrs. Rinne’s favorite medium is oil pastels and clay, and she enjoys helping students get excited about the way the colors move and how three-dimensional paintings can become. When asked about her favorite medium, Mrs. Sullins said, “I really love ceramics. There’s something so rewarding about turning a lump of clay into a sculpture.” Both teachers offer opportunities for students to showcase their projects including Inktober (a focus on pen and ink drawings), a Christmas display, Community Art Fair and Showcase, Frisco Art Competition, and a Spring display.
Mrs. Sullins is proud wife of Jesse, a union painter who works at Missouri S&T in Rolla doing design and construction, and proud mother of Finley, age 16, a sophomore involved in band, volleyball, basketball, and track; and Jett, age 12, a 6th grader who loves athletics. Mr. and Mrs. Sullins recently celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. Mrs. Sullins is also proud to be a Licking Staff Legacy and recognized the years of service of her father and mother, Gary and Norma Gorman.
Mrs. Rinne is proud wife of Dr. Jarad Rinne, Licking’s high school principal, and proud mother of Isaac, age 14, an 8th grader; Kylee, age 13, a 7th grader; Kaylynn, age 10, a 5th grader; and Zeke, age 7, a 2nd grader. Dr. and Mrs. Rinne celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary this year. Mrs. Rinne is proud of how artistic her own children are, as well. “They are willing to create sample projects to share with the students, and that’s a tremendous help,” Mrs. Rinne noted.
While teacher shortages are a reality in our state, Licking R-VIII School District is fortunate to have two dedicated and hard-working art teachers who spend long hours preparing for projects that will challenge and inspire young people. We are proud to recognize these professionals as this month’s Spotlight Staff!