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January 28, 2011  
Filed under Opinion, Top Stories

Ms. Peggy Hopper

Ms. Peggy Hopper

by Aleks Kochan

Whether you’ve taken Art or not, chances are you’ve met Ms. Hopper. She can be found heading down the hall, shouting a falsetto “Excuse me!” to clear the way. The self-proclaimed “crazy art lady” is always talking: to herself, to her students, and even to complete strangers. When I had an opportunity to nominate the Teacher of the Month, I knew it was time to go have a chat with Ms. Hopper.

I happened to stop by during AP Art. I walked into a bright, warm classroom where around a dozen students sat at long, gray art tables. The room was quiet, but by no means still: one could hear paintbrushes and pastels scratching papers, the buzz of an MP3 player, and hushed conversations. It was apparent everyone was focused on his or her own work. Fortunately, no one seemed stressed, rushed, or unhappy to be there.

As usual, a woman with glasses and a shock of spiky blond hair sat at the teacher’s desk. When she saw me enter the room, she set down her lunch so she could give me her full attention. After a few pleasantries, we got down to business.

“Tell me, Ms. Hopper,” I began, “As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?” She replied instantly. “A teacher.” There was no doubt, hesitation, or waffling: she was meant to be an art teacher.

I inquired further, asking how she could have been so sure. “You must have been an artistic child, right?” This question gave her pause. “I’ve always been able to see things in perspective and draw them in perspective. I guess that’s my greatest natural artistic skill.”

Ms. Hopper Helps a Student

Ms. Hopper Helps a Student

Ms. Hopper was my Art I teacher, and I suspected I knew why she loved teaching art. My suspicions proved to be correct. She explained her favorite part of teaching was the students. “I get to know them well, better than many other teachers do. I think it’s because of the atmosphere. Most of my kids want to be here.”

Just then, one of her students interrupted with a serious question. “Ms. Hopper, is our art budget getting cut?” After a second, Ms. Hopper replied, “Absolutely, all the schools in Texas are facing budget cuts.” I asked her how she felt about the cuts, and her answer held no bitterness or anger. “It’s just a sign of the times. We’ll do what we’ve always done, but with less money.”

Anyone who perceived her response to be apathetic was completely wrong. In fact, she believes “The fact that we have fine arts classes shows we are a civilized society, and we meet students’ needs on a high level.”

I took a moment to ask junior art student Taylor Brutto to describe Ms. Hopper in three words, and it was obvious Brutto was having trouble putting her feelings into words. We turned to junior Courtley Prince for help. Prince’s three words? “My favorite teacher; she’s amazing; she doesn’t just care about what she teaches, she cares about her students, too. She always helps her graduating students get into college.”

Prince’s answer emboldened Brutto. When I asked Brutto how she would describe Ms. Hopper to someone who had never met her, she replied with a laugh. “Unique. She scares you if you’re not used to her, but if you understand her, she’s fun and interesting.”

Any art student would agree with Brutto and Prince. To some, Ms. Hopper is just that crazy art lady. Her students know better. She is unique, but that doesn’t stop her from being a wonderful teacher: helpful, supportive, and prepared to push you to do your best.

Before I left, I asked one last question. “Do you ever regret becoming an art teacher?”

“No.” The answer was final, and nothing more needed to be asked. Ms. Hopper loves her job, and Rockwall-Heath High School should be proud she’s here to teach us.

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