For the past several years, local artist Mario Tejada has come to Oak View School in January and February to teach hands-on art lessons to all students. Mr. Mario, as the children call him, spends an hour in each kindergarten through eighth grade classroom every week leading an art lesson that usually includes oil pastels and watercolors.
"Mr. Mario makes drawing so much more fun. Sometimes we draw some pretty crazy-looking things like a tractor in outer space, but after he explains the meaning and symbolism behind it, it turns out to be really cool," says eighth-grade student Reagan Choate.
The atmosphere in the classroom while Mr. Mario is teaching usually consists of cultural music lightly playing in the background while the children take charge passing out cups of water, white drawing paper, paints, paper towels and pastels. During the lesson, Mr. Mario talks about the meaning behind the daily art lesson while linking it to the student's daily lives. The interaction between Mr. Mario and the students is full of laughter, love and respect.
"You know he is making a difference in these kids' lives when he walks back onto campus after a year has gone by and these kids run up to hug him and tell him that they are so excited he is back," says Vice Principal Alan Posey.
The Parent Teacher Club fully funds the 8-week program every year with proceeds earned from the club's annual Crab Feed Dinner and Auction.
"With the way school budgets are these days, we are so lucky to be able to help the school in the area of visual arts by providing Mr. Mario's art lessons. It is a very important program to our Parent Teacher Club, and will continue to be priority in our funding each year," says PTC President Laurel Vermeltfoort.
Mr. Mario's work can be seen sprinkled throughout campus, from the giant Bulldog mural that he painted on the outside of a classroom wall in 2006 to a museum of his art permanently displayed on the multipurpose room walls. He even donates a piece of his art to the Crab Feed Dinner and Auction each year.
"This is a little paradise in the middle of farmland," Mr. Mario says about Oak View School. "The kids are pure. They are down to earth and fun to be around. I feel blessed to be here."
Beverly Boone is the principal of Oak View School.