Thursday, June 13, 2024

Color Me Happy: How a Stay-at-Home Mom Filled Coronado Schools with Art

Cyndi Fuhrmann, the Visual and Performing Arts teacher at Village Elementary, teaches 900 students a week in her dedicated Art Room.

Cyndi Fuhrmann’s passion for art started as a teenager growing up in England.

“Since I grew up in Europe, I was always surrounded by so much history,” says Cyndi, Visual and Performing Arts Teacher at Village Elementary. “I remember going to London, and seeing the British museum, and being exposed to so much art.”

But the arts really made an impact when she visited Greece during her senior class trip.

“I think it really hit me when I went to the Parthenon in Athens,” says Cyndi. “I stood there as the sun was setting. I don’t know what happened, but something just touched my soul.”

From then on, Cyndi wanted to know everything there was to know about art. She studied ceramics and pottery, and took several classes in art history.

“But my Dad told me, ‘don’t study art, because there aren’t any jobs in it,’” says Cyndi. “So I switched to Communications, because I didn’t know what else to do.”

Fast forward a few years, and Cyndi found herself with a teaching degree, educating elementary school kids in San Francisco. When she moved to Coronado and had her two daughters, Kaia and Teagan, Cyndi decided to devote most of her time to motherhood.

“But I still had my heart in the arts,” said Cyndi. “I went to Point Loma Nazarene and took some art classes there, and even joined the CoSA board.”

Cyndi enjoys taking art classes and creating her own work, like this drawing in ink.

About five years ago, when her daughter Kaia was finishing up kindergarten, Cyndi decided to volunteer with the art teacher. But the art teacher had just been let go, due to lack of funding.

“How was I going to volunteer with the art teacher, when there was no art teacher?” said Cyndi. “So I went to Mrs. Roberts, Kaia’s first grade teacher, to see how I could help. Around that time, I learned about Meet the Masters, a new art appreciation program the school was rolling out.”

Cyndi knew that the teachers were already busy implementing the Common Core curriculum, so she asked Mrs. Roberts if she could teach an art lesson for Meet the Masters.

“I’ve worked as a teacher, and I knew it was going to be tough,” says Cyndi. “How in the world were these teachers going to implement Common Core as well as roll out this amazing new art program?”

The class went well, and soon almost all the teachers at Village Elementary were asking Cyndi if she could help them with art. She knew she had to call for reinforcements.

“I felt like we had enough parents out there that were passionate about the arts, and we could support the teachers and help them do the art program,” says Cyndi. “And that’s what we did.”

Things took off from there. Cyndi’s program went from about ten parent volunteers to 100. She knew the program was successful when every single student in the elementary school had participated, and she was able to showcase their work in an art show.

“The art show allowed us to celebrate that everyone is an artist,” said Cyndi. “It was super successful. We had about 500 people come through. I knew then, that I wasn’t just doing something I was passionate about…but that my work was having an impact.”

Every single student in Village Elementary is exposed to the arts through Cyndi’s teaching.

Soon, Cyndi was offered a job as the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) teacher at Village when the district received a grant for the position. But it came with a catch: Cyndi was responsible for writing the entire curriculum herself.

“Meet the Masters is art appreciation,” says Cyndi. “It shows the students the life of the artist, what was happening in the world at that time, what the artist’s studio looked like. The kids really get to know the artist, and when they create their own piece of art, they feel more of a connection.”

The VAPA program, on the other hand, is the discreet arts, which means it teaches the elements of the arts (line, shape, form, etc.). In addition to art, she was also responsible for teaching music, theater, and dance. Cyndi worked with Karrie Jackson, the VAPA teacher at Strand Elementary, and together they wrote an entire curriculum over the course of the year, for each discipline in every single grade level.

And it paid off: the students at Village Elementary grew more and more passionate about the arts. According to Cyndi, one student was so excited by a percussion class that he inspired a family field trip to STOMP. Another student referred to a challenging time in her life as Picasso’s “Blue Period,” and another found empowerment in the individuality of his Michelangelo project.

“A little first grader finished his Michelangelo art, and he said ‘I finished it, and I really like my work,’” recalls Cyndi. “I said, ‘I do too.’ And he said, ‘It’s not perfect,’ and I said, ‘It’s not supposed to be,’ and he said, ‘I know, because if it was perfect, it wouldn’t be mine.’”

Cyndi says that one of the best things about teaching art is opening students up to new viewpoints, and that ‘perfect’ isn’t very interesting.

“In many subjects, there is a right or wrong answer–but not when it comes to creativity,” says Cyndi. “You can do things that are a little different, and those things can be very valuable. It helps students feel validated in what they do.”

By the time the kids were graduating from Village and moving on to Coronado Middle School, they were already more skilled artists, and empowered performers.

“The middle school teachers would say the kids are more willing to really ‘get out there’ in theater and take a chance,” said Cyndi. “And they’re more confident in art. They’ve already completed a canvas painting; they are already familiar with contour and line drawing.”

The best part? Today, thanks to the school grant and the help of the Coronado Schools Foundation, the elementary school kids are getting exposure to the arts on a weekly basis. Cyndi works full-time in a dedicated art room, and no longer has to wheel all her materials around from class to class in an “art cart.” She now gets to combine VAPA with Meet the Masters, resulting in a more fluid and consolidated art program.

“It’s a challenge, seeing 900 kids a week,” says Cyndi. “It’s a pretty fast-paced day. Thank goodness for the parents—I didn’t do this on my own. I had the vision and the training, but without them, I could never have done it. And the teachers, I’m so glad they opened their classrooms to us.”

Cyndi says she looks forward to many more colorful years in the classroom.

“It fills my soul like no other thing I have done,” she says. “I wish I could go back to college, and say, ‘study the arts, study the arts,’ because that’s what I love. If I could give one message to my kids or to my students, it would be this: if it’s in your heart, you will be successful.”

When Cyndi’s not teaching art or hanging out with her two daughters, she’s training at CrossFit, attending a Duran Duran concert or riding her bike down the Strand.



Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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