Gateway: Living

Art teacher with ‘kind word for everyone’ receives district award for excellence

Minter Creek Elementary art teacher Phillys Slater receives her Ellen Fay Award at the Peninsula School District board of directors meeting on June 8.
Minter Creek Elementary art teacher Phillys Slater receives her Ellen Fay Award at the Peninsula School District board of directors meeting on June 8. Courtesy

Bringing some color and creativity into students’ lives is a goal of elementary teachers and especially for elementary art teachers like Phillys Slater.

The art specialist at Minter Creek Elementary, Slater has worked for the Peninsula School District since 2001 and is the recent recipient of the district’s Ellen Fay Award for academic excellence, which she received June 8 at the board of directors meeting.

Slater first heard of her award May 31 from Superintendent Robert Manahan and was taken completely by surprise.

“I was totally shook,” she said. “It was very overwhelming that my colleagues nominated me for this.”

I was totally shook. It was very overwhelming that my colleagues nominated me for this.

Phillys Slater, Minter Creek Elementary art teacher

The Ellen Fay Award is based on peer nominations and looks at several different criteria, including engagement with students and families, modeling professional growth and improvement, excellence in job performance in position and any special recognitions.

Principal Ty Robuck, speaking at the board of directors meeting, said that Slater embodies many of these characteristics in her role at Minter Creek.

“Phillys is phenomenal is so many ways,” Robuck said. “She knows how a calm, gentle demeanor can turn a difficult day for a child into a successful day. She has a kind word for everyone, every day.”

He added that Slater has been contributing classroom art projects for the PTA auction for three years and has inspired other classrooms to donate baskets to the auction. He noted that her auction piece this year raised more than $1,000 for the PTA.

Phillys is phenomenal is so many ways. She knows how a calm, gentle demeanor can turn a difficult day for a child into a successful day. She has a kind word for everyone, every day.

Ty Robuck, Minter Creek Elementary principal

Slater also worked on the Peninsula Hands on Art project for the district, creating a “Gargoyle: a History of Stone Waterspouts” project seen around the district and is currently training volunteers on the project so it can be done in other schools.

Art is important to Slater and she also sees it vital to her students’ growth and development, especially in learning new things or working through projects they might not initially be very good at.

“I feel the skills I give them here transfer over. Kids get hung up on the ‘I can’t do it,’ ‘I can’t do it like you do it,’” she said. “And I tell them that they’re just practicing. It takes the burden off them to be perfect.”

I feel the skills I give them here transfer over...Kids get hung up on the ‘I can’t do it,’ ‘I can’t do it like you do it,.’ And I tell them that they’re just practicing. It takes the burden off them to be perfect.

Slater

She focuses on teaching students the techniques behind different artistic expressions, helping students experiment with a range of mediums from painting to clay.

“I love the energy of the kids, their imagination,” Slater said. “I love how open they are to anything you have to teach them. They’re totally open.”

Originally from the Panama Canal zone, Slater’s husband is from the area and she has called Gig Harbor home for the past 22 years, with Minter Creek serving as another home to her.

“I love Minter,” she said. “Minter is family. Minter is my home.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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