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Arts Playlist: Using art therapy in school

Sussex Tech High School’s most recent teacher of the year is melding her graphic design skills with art therapy.

Kelli Gehrke teaches digital publishing and print design at Sussex Tech - a job that’s required some extra creativity since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

In Arts Playlist, Gehrke chats with Delaware Public Media’s Kelli Steele about using art in a therapeutic fashion to help student express themselves and cope with stress and anxiety.

Gehrke notes that she’s needed to work harder to help her students since the COVID-19 pandemic started

Credit Kelli Gehrke (Photo from Sussex Tech)
Sussex Tech teacher Kelli Gehrke

For instance, my 10th graders, I’m just teaching them the skills that they need to become graphic designers," said Gehrke. "So this summer I spent the summer basically making sure that they all had computer access. And then I had to make sure that all they had software access. And then I had to make sure that all of the access worked and that they all had internet. So that alone was a giant process.”

Gehrke says she also uses art in a therapeutic fashion to help her students express themselves and cope with stress and anxiety, which has proven helpful as they navigate additional pressures created by the pandemic.

“I use topography because I teach graphic design. So I took the idea of letters and how you need to understand how different fonts express different feelings," said Gehrke. "And they just were able to write a stream of consciousness about how they (students) were feeling. And then they used different types of letters to express the words that would express their emotions basically.”

Gehrke says this approach is especially useful now as students deal with coronavirus pressures while often learning remotely.

Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.