Friday, June 20, 2014

In the Art Room: The Best Dressed Art Teacher!

Hey, kids! That super cute art teacher you see before you (who I think could totally pass as a younger, cuter kid sis of mine), you've actually seen before on this here blog. You might have even voted for her during a lil Best Dressed Art Teacher Contest I hosted I while back. Face not ringing a bell? 

How abouts now? She looks just a pinch different, doncha think? It's amazing what a good eyebrow pluckin' will do.  Meet Natalie Friedl, Best Dressed Art Teacher extraordinaire! I was lucky enough to interview Natalie about her all-around art-teaching-awesomeness and I'm so excited to share her words of wisdom with ya'll today. So, without further jibber-jabber, take it away, Natalie!
Hi, guys! I'm Natalie Friedl and I've been teaching elementary art for 10 years, 9 of these glorious years have been at the wonderful Torrence Creek Elementary school in Huntersville, NC (right outside of Charlotte).  I am originally from NE Ohio where I graduated with an Art Ed. And Studio Arts degree from Kent State University.

I'm also married to the hunky Alan Friedl and we have a beautiful 5 year old princess named Felicity.
Me and the check we gave to Second Harvest Food Bank from our very first Empty Bowls night.
I teach the wonderful world of ART to Kindergarten through 5th grade artists at Torrence Creek Elementary School and have since the doors opened in 2005.  We are a Charlotte Mecklenburg School.  For the last eight years our population has been about 1200 students and this is our first year with half of that.  This year was very busy: in the fall I presented a workshop called "Hooray for Clay" with my partner-in-art, Alicia Waters, at the North Carolina Art Education Conference.  And in the spring, I presented our school's first Empty Bowls success at the NAEA conference along side 5 other wonderful CMS art educators.'s been a whirlwind of fun and art! I wouldn't have it any other way!
One of my favorite pics of a students empty bowl with her artist statement. To find out more about the Empty Bowls project and have your students participate, visit their website. 
  I love being an Art Teacher and have two important pieces of advice to other art educators:

Make like minded friends.
Don't get me wrong non-artsy people are good folks too but artsy-smartsy peeps just get our craziness! The best thing I ever did was to become friends with my BFF Sarah Beirne ( while in art ed classes at Kent State University and then meet Wade Cox at the NAEA convention in New Orleans and help to hire Ms. Alicia Waters (  These 3 amazing art educators are my ART TEACHER BFFs!  They are my support system for great ideas, new lessons, CRAZY talk, venting, NAEA and NCAEA travel buddies but most importantly my friends.

My team is a WONDERFUL support system too! Mrs. Joyce Mutter, our technology teacher and Beth Smiley, our media specialist help me to carry out my ideas into real life success along with being the best co-workers and friends a girl could ask for.
They get my crazy and we all need that.
Get involved.
Become a NAEA member, go to the conferences, become a state art ed association member and travel to their conferences or if you are lucky like me your district has art education professional developments. Shout out to Cheryl Maney - Visual Arts and Dance curriculum specialist!
By joining these organizations and attending their functions you become knowledgeable on what's new and you meet important people!
 Just like I did when I met my new friend, Cassie Stephens!
 Now, about Natalie's Frida Kahlo look...

I love teaching art to the little artists of TCES and this Halloween I decided to take a sick day to enjoy my favorite holiday. Well, I was so happy to find that Frida Kahlo herself had recently become a substitute in our system.  I quickly called her and she agreed to sub for me on Halloween!

I was sad to miss the fun but my students filled me in on her life, stories she told, new Spanish words they learned and completed the class with an oil pastel drawing of her including her pets, colorful tissue paper flowers and glitter galore! Most TCES artists loved her thick Spanish accent too!

To this day the kids mix my name up with Frida by calling me "Frida Friedl" and it cracks me up because I remind them that I was absent that day. So FUN! 
The amazing artwork that resulted in Frida's substituting stint.

Frida Kahlo has always been one of my favorite artists because of the vibrant colors she uses and her Mexican culture. Not to mentions, she was an amazingly creative and strong woman. After I traveled to Mexico several times I was under Frida's spell.  She is a colorful person to look at herself from studying many of her self-portraits.  It was a no-brainer for me to dress up as her.
 I drove to school with a black wig tied up with flowers, a large uni-brow and bright red lipstick. As I entered the school my Spanish began to flow and Frida Kahlo was in full force for the rest of the day.  We learned about Frida's life, studied many of her self-portraits and created a portrait of her with one of her pets using oil pastels, tissue paper flowers and GLITTER.  We even listened to Mariachi folk music as we created and also learned about El Dia de Los Muertos.  It was a fun and an exhausting day that left the art room floor very messy yet sparkly.

This was my first time--but not my last time-- dressing up in full costume as a famous artist. I have a lot more up my sleeve for next school year! I do enjoy wearing art themed shirts such as Warhol's soup cans, crayon shirts, Make Art Not War, Keep Calm and Teach Art.  I am not a stranger to crazy hats, crazy hair or crazy socks days either.  There have also been many a time where I have worn complementary colors and had reindeer antlers coming out of my head.

I urge all ART TEACHERS to dress up! The kids EAT IT UP and will remember more from you teaching with a unibrow than your paint-splattered apron!

(OMG, yous guys, don't you LOVE Natalie?! Can I puh-lease adopt her as my kid sister??)
I have tried a variety of super fun activities but the art making projects that mean the most are the ones in which we create art to help others.  Most recently our school participated in students rebuild in which we created enough magazine beads to give clean drinking water to over 40 people in Tanzania ( This year was also our first Empty Bowls night in which the entire school created or helped create a bowl and then they were sold and auctioned off.  We raised over $2,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank!!!

 Some other very meaningful art experiences that we have participated in are cards for Vietnam Veterans and The Memory Project's - books for Africa.The first picture is of the magazine beads my students made for students

Thank you SO MUCH, Natalie! You are truly an art-teachin' inspiration! Her students and colleagues   are so lucky to have her, doncha think?! Unibrow and all. 

Now, this isn't the last you'll be seeing of Natalie and some other folks from the Best Dressed Contest -- oh no! They'll be featured in non-other than SchoolArts Magazine thanks to the editor Nancy Walkup. How exciting! I'll be sure to share that with you in the near future. Oh and if you need more art-teacher-dressin'-craziness, go here, ya'll. It's like a Starter Kit to Crazy Town. Until next time, ya'll!


  1. We are so lucky to have Natalie as our co-worker. Her work with students and staff in our school and within the Charlotte community is unparalleled. She's energetic, fun, talented, and willing to share her skills/supplies with anyone. Whether you're an accomplished artist yourself or a pathetic one (like me) she's there to support and encourage you every step of the way. We're so proud of her!

  2. This is such an awesome tribute to one fabulous person! I am so fortunate to have Frida Friedl in my life!!! She is one amazingly talented art educator and the best friend a girl could have. She has gone far above and beyond what a teaching career requires and I can't wait to see what she has in store for the future! Love Natalie Friedl to pieces! I am one proud friend! (BTW, thanks for the shout out Friedl-Deedle!)


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