Visual arts teacher brings home Rotary award for “Service Above Self”
Natalie Hebert, the visual arts teacher at Jill Stone Elementary School at Vickery Meadow, is diving into the 2022-2023 school year with a new accomplishment under her belt. Thanks to her passion for transforming student lives and making memorable moments, she won this year’s elementary “Service Above Self” Dallas Rotary Club Award.
Hebert has been teaching in Dallas ISD for seven years, but this is her second year at Jill Stone. When she first arrived, the campus had not had an art teacher for several years, and the former campus did not have much space to create or display art. So Hebert reached out to her principal and got permission to host Jill Stone’s inaugural art show at the new campus in June.
Since Jill Stone is in a neighborhood that speaks several languages, Hebert sent out invitations in English, Spanish, Amharic, Burmese, Farsi, Arabic, Nepali and Swahili. She then worked with a group of fifth-grade students to display at least two or three works of art from every student across campus, filling the halls with over 2,000 unique pieces.
“There was art on all three levels—sculptures, paintings, drawings,” Hebert said. “My students didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.”
Art has always been a passion for Hebert, and Jill Stone initially caught her eye because she knew she could make a difference for the school’s large emerging bilingual student population.
“When my dad moved to the United States from Montreal, Canada, he didn’t speak any English,” Hebert said. “He went to Gaston Middle School in Dallas ISD, and the only class he passed was art because he could watch the teacher and imitate. I want to create that safe place where students can be excited and free, regardless of language barriers.”
To Hebert, service above self means going above and beyond to inspire her students and give them the confidence they need to succeed.
When a fire burned down two students’ homes last year, Hebert rallied the East Dallas community and collected brand new clothes for them in just two days. She also teamed up with the Dallas Public Library to display student art at the Vickery Park Branch Library to motivate more families to visit the library and get library cards.
“My goal has always been to encourage students to think creatively and not be scared to try or learn about new things,” she said. “This community deserves so much, and being able to come into the art room and explore is such a confidence builder.”