SPRINGFIELD — Brittany Lein tends a garden of flowering minds at Springfield Elementary School. Her objective is to get her students' artistic creativity to blossom.
Apparently, Lein has a green thumb for education. She received top honors at the Effingham County Board of Education's Teacher of the Year Banquet at New Ebenezer Retreat Center on Oct. 15.
"(The students) blow me away everyday with what they are able to do," Lein said. "That's one of the big reasons I absolutely love teaching (at the elementary school level). There is no pre-basis for what they have been exposed to or what they know (about art) before I get them."
Lein arrived at Springfield Elementary School in 2014, meaning she impacted virtually every student currently enrolled there. The school includes kindergarten through fifth grade.
"I've just watched them continue to grow every year in what they are willing to create and the excitement about what we are creating everyday," she said. "Over the couple two years, I've tried to bring in a lot of new materials to them and a lot of new ways of seeing and doing things."
There is ample proof that Lein's teaching approach works. The artworks of Springfield Elementary School students consistently place highly at area shows.
"I think, for where we are, my kids make some of the best work in the entire county," Lein said. "I guess I'm a little biased to them, though."
Lein, also the volleyball coach at Effingham County High School, said her classes are teeming with promising artists.
"We have quite a handful of kids who are just amazing when it comes to what they are able to produce at such a young age," she said. "They are so talented."
There are no right ways or wrong ways of artistic expression, Lein said.
"I think that's the real cool thing about my job," Lein explained. "... I can teach them about artists, concepts and skills but what they put on paper is their personal interpretation. I can't tell them, 'That's not right because you used blue instead of pink.'
"It's how they interpret it and how they put it together, and I think that's phenomenal — (the combination of) what I teach them and what goes on (in their minds)."
In addition to being a way to recognize Lein and each Effingham County school's teacher of the year, the banquet served as a celebration of overall educational achievement.
"Everyone in this room is instrumental in us having a great school system," Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse said.
Shearouse applauded teachers at all grade levels for Effingham County's high school graduation rate of 91 percent.
"That is phenomenal, phenomenal," he said.
Before reading the biographies of each Effingham County school's teacher of the year, Shearouse recited a common theme in all of them. "Depth of knowledge,' 'dedicated,' 'love for students,' 'educates the whole child,' 'takes the time, extra time, 'openness' and 'enthusiasm' are just a few of them.
"I think that says why Effingham County continues to perform well — because of the teachers that we have in our classrooms," he said. "Thank you and congratulations to everyone who is being recognized tonight."