Creative Launchpad Featured Arts Educator
Get to know Natalie Balentine, our featured arts educator for February 2023 –
I’m Natalie Balentine. This is my 16th year as an art teacher with Madison County schools. I am an army brat, one of four daughters. I grew up in Germany, and in Huntsville and spent quite a bit of time with our mother’s family in France. From a young age we were exposed to art and literature and visited museums and galleries.
I always loved interacting and volunteering at my children’s school (Monrovia Elementary) and decided to make a career change and become an elementary art teacher.
I am married to Mike, a software engineer. We have two adult sons, Cameron and Collin, and a lovely daughter-in-law, Jessica. We also have three rescue dogs and a rescue cat.
My husband and I enjoy visiting our children in Birmingham, antiquing and traveling. Last summer we spent three weeks in France. I am so lucky and blessed to be part of a big rambunctious extended family who all value art and creative expression.
Q & A With Natalie Balentine –
Briefly describe an early arts experience that was meaningful to you.
I was a child who loved to read and draw. I remember my first art set, and easel, and setting it up outside to draw and paint.
What made you decide to become an arts (art) educator?
After a “first career” in the corporate world, I wanted a career that served; my mother and sisters were educators. I always enjoyed going into my son’s classrooms to help with art projects when they were young, and I knew how important art is for children.
What excites you most about working with students?
All students need to express themselves. And often a student who might not have success academically, thrives in an arts setting. I love to see that child, who others might think is difficult, do well in art. I love the “aha!” moment for kids in art.
Why do you think arts education is important? (Especially in these uncertain times)
“Years of research show ART is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.” Schools that have a strong arts program have proven gains in all academic subjects, there is a direct correlation, more than with technology classes, or new planning/teaching methods. It seems so simple, the arts help create better students and happier people.
What is a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
I love to paint and create art on the weekend but I am terrible at crafting. I don’t make any cute crafts. I am the mom of two adult boys, and I ADORE traveling. I worked in NYC off and on for 18 years so I am drawn to that city. My mom is French, and I love to spend time in France over the summer holidays.