Art teacher Andersen Thorp has taught at Hartford High School for 28 years. The high school of about 800 students is in Hartford, Vermont located on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. An estimated 120 students sit in classes with Thorp annually. That means about 3,300 students have passed through her classroom, enriched by her passion and enthusiasm for the arts.
Thorp doesn’t just have love of the arts in common with her students. She too went to Hartford High School as a teenager. “I made the decision to pursue art as a career when I was in eighth grade. Because my rural Vermont town did not have a high school, I had the good fortune of “school choice.” I visited five area high schools and chose the one with the best art program. The first day of my high school freshman art class, I made a point to introduce myself to my new art teacher and let her know why I chose to attend Hartford High School and my desire to pursue a future in the arts.”
After high school, Thorp went to Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. She completed her graduate work at Dartmouth College.
For Thorp art has purpose. Art isn’t just about creating beautiful masterpieces. It isn’t only about fulfilling credits. “Teaching the arts is a powerful vehicle for positive change. I am fortunate to have a career and interests that reassure me with positive affirmations of America’s future. As a high school teacher, I witness first-hand the optimism, drive and hope most of our students have for their futures. To support our nation’s students’ success, competitiveness and happiness in the 21st century, they need to be problem solvers, risk takers, innovative explorers and creative thinkers. Our art rooms are where these core educational opportunities develop, thrive and prosper.”
Thorp is a changemaker. That doesn’t go unnoticed by her students. Hartford High School student Kayla Lancor, who nominated Thorp as art teacher of the year said, “Ms. Thorp is an outstanding teacher. She cares for her students and has impacted the school through art. She has created the Creative Improvement Council, which has changed the school by making the walls, bathrooms, and other parts artistic and beautiful. Her talents wear off on her curious students. With every step you take at Hartford High School you can see where Mrs. Thorp has made a difference.”
Five years ago, Andersen founded the school’s extra-curricular club and non-profit organization, The Creative Improvement Council. She wanted to create a more engaging, inspiring and positive learning environment for students, staff and community to come together and collaborate. The CIC constructed innovative interior and exterior school design improvements that created positive and interesting spaces within the school. The improvements transformed, connected, and inspired people of all ages to learn and work together.
Everyone wants to better prepare our children for the future. In these challenging times of change, Thorp’s creative approach supports students for the future.
Since being at Hartford High School, Thorp has taught Metals and Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Folk Arts, Fiber Arts and 2D and 3D Design. But she doesn’t just contribute to the community of Hartford High School. She has also taught classes for the Vermont State Craft Center, The Preservation Education Institute and with the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.
“I’ve been a serious student of the arts my entire life. I’m fortunate to share my passion with others,” Thorp says. “I’m always impressed with the creativity, love of learning and discovery my students possess. Democratizing art (the arts for all) provides students the opportunity to learn and grow. The arts bond us all together, it is the food of our spirits and we need the arts to feel good about ourselves and our world.”