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Right now, Jenna Robey's 80-plus art students must share one iPad and two Chromebooks, but thanks to a recently awarded grant Robey is going to be able to buy around 20 tablets.

Whenever Jenna Robey wants her middle school students to explore the world of art, it takes awhile. Her 80-plus students have to share two Chromebooks and an iPad.

Not for much longer.

Robey, who teaches at Sahuarita Middle School, recently won a $5,000 grant that will enable her to purchase a set of roughly 20 tablets, enough of them students won't need to share during her class.

The grant was awarded by the Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers. Created in 2016, the organization wanted to help out teachers who often spend their own money to enhance their curriculum. Every year, teachers are invited to fill out an online application detailing their school and classroom wish. Winners are selected through a random drawing. The organization has granted more than $2.2 million to Arizona teachers so far.

Robey suspects the tablets will make a huge difference in the way she teaches. 

Simply teaching the masters is an outdated mode of teaching, she said.

"Everyone knows who Picasso is and who Dali is, but what else do you know?" Robey said. "Bringing the internet into the classroom helps kids learn what is being done in the art world right now and how we can use that as an influence. How can we take what people are doing today and expand upon that?"

To elaborate, Robey said, "My goal is not to tell kids how to make art, it’s to give them tools so they can learn all of these different approaches and find what fits them and their needs." 

She realizes some people may be taken aback by the thought of spending so much money on technology for an art class, but art is about more than just creating something aesthetically pleasing, she said.

"People who have never taken an art class or pursued creative activities don’t necessarily recognize the value in it, but I think anybody that tries to make something realizes how challenging it is," Robey said. "It requires you to develop certain thinking skills and problem solving skills. It helps you to grow as a human, let alone if you want to pursue a career in the arts."

Art teaches people problem-solving skills and how to visually connect with people — skills often needed in the business world, she said. 

"I don’t think it’s a requirement in order to be a successful teacher, but I do think it opens up the possibilities to keep growing and to just keep up with our heavily technologically-driven society," she said.

Robey hopes to order the tablets by the winter break.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

Assistant Editor Kim Smith moved to Arizona from Michigan when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism in 1989. She has worked at seven newspapers of varying size in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

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