One of the best parts about being a kid in art class is getting to show off your work to your mom, dad, grandmother, or whomever will look at it. It's that sense of pride and accomplishment that Pinewood Elementary school art teacher Sheldon Lebowitz strives to give his students each day.
You only have to Sheldon Gruber-Lebowitz (or just Mr. Lebowitz to his students) for a couple of minutes to see just how much he loves his job. It's hard to believe he considered doing something entirely different.
"I started off as a speech pathologist at Loyola College and failed all my anatomy and physiology classes," he said.
He decided to go a different path and pursue something he knows and loves, art. 28 years later, he is still making works of art with his elementary school kids and loving every moment.
"I can't imagine being anywhere else for these children. I don't know how to be anywhere else," Lebowitz said.
From kindergarten through fifth grade, the hundreds of students at Pinewood Elementary school in Timonium are taught a variety of art forms like drawing, charcoal, watercolor and sculpting. Lebowitz proudly displays their artwork all over the school, calling the building his own "refrigerator door."
"The arts allows children to take a risk and feel safe in it and sometimes be rewarded for it," he said. "The arts brings confidence, a level of accomplishment, a sense of no right or wrong and no fear of being rejected."
Lebowitz's love of art extends beyond the school day. He also runs an after-school Arts Service club that has become so popular, he has to use a lottery system to choose who can be in the club. The kids work on projects for local charities like the Johns Hopkins Children Center and Casey Cares.
"There is no better lesson than the joy you get from making something and giving it to someone else," Lebowitz said. "They know that joy, they've experienced that joy and it's a joy that is unparalleled."
Parents sing Lebowitz's praises and so do his colleagues, who say it's clear he's chosen the right career.
"He is passionate about art but more importantly he's passionate about the children," said Linda Popp, the visual arts coordinator for Baltimore County Public Schools. "He makes sure that he does everything he possibly can so every child will be successful."
So does he regret that speech pathology never worked out?
"Failing those courses at Loyola was the best thing that happened to me. And getting into art was the next best thing."