For the past three years, eighth-graders at Dillard Drive Middle School get to enjoy Keith Knight’s sculptures at their graduation dance. This year, his large Statue of Liberty constructed of Styrofoam, wood and fabric held court as students enjoyed the New York-themed dance on June 1.
Knight is not a world-renowned artist; he has taught seventh-grade math at Dillard Drive for four years. But when a fellow teacher asked him to help with the dance a few years ago, Knight used what he calls his “handyman” skills to sculpt art pieces: a waterfall, the Hollywood sign, a large “D” with a dragon inside (the Dillard Drive logo), and this year, the Statue of Liberty.
Q: Did you have any prior experience with set design or props?
No, but I’m a handy sort of person. I was in the Air Force for four years, then worked as a design engineer for a while.
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Q: How did you construct the Statue of Liberty?
The structure was designed in four sections in order to fit through the cafeteria door opening, then reassembled once inside the cafeteria. The lower base section was constructed of a wood platform with a Styrofoam shell mounted on top of the platform. A small base tower constructed of wood, used to support the statue, was set inside the lower base section and rested on the wood platform. A middle section shell consisted of only Styrofoam slipped over the base tower. The upper section, the statue, was created using wood, poly-fill, Styrofoam and fabric.
Q: How long did it take you to create the sculpture?
I do not start the sculptures until after the EOGs. The (end-of-grade) tests take precedence. The Statue of Liberty took approximately 60 hours to make.
Q: How did you end up teaching middle-school math?
I have been fairly proficient with math all my life. Not A’s all the time, but it came easily to me. I worked with electronics in the military, and design engineering uses a lot of math. When my consulting job in Atlanta ended, I called N.C. State, where I had gone to school, and talked with them.
Through prayer and my relationship with Jesus, I found my way to teaching. N.C. State helped me get everything lined up. Those doors and opportunities were wide open.
Q: Did you work in a training capacity before you took an actual teaching job?
Yes, even in the military, you always have military underneath you. You are always in training mode. Essentially, training is the same, whether you are training or teaching adults or seventh-graders.
Q: What is the seventh-grade curriculum, and how much will it change next year with Common Core?
Seventh-graders learn basic operations with rational numbers, geometry, algebra and data analysis.
With the new Common Core, we’re still getting a handle on how things will change. The main difference that I see is that students will be asked to analyze and use a variety of concepts to solve a problem. Students will have to start thinking more.