For The Dialog
PERRYVILLE, Md. – The third-grade class crowded around Mark Hendron as he studied a sneaker on the table, drawing an outline of the shoe.
“Mr. Hendron, you’re a good artist,” one of the students told Hendron, now in his sixth year as art instructor at Good Shepherd School.
Hendron told the students they have the opportunity to be better than him. When he attended Good Shepherd just over 20 years ago, “we didn’t have art classes.”
Turning back to the outline of the shoe, he said, “Now we are going to add detail. What is detail?”
While Hendron expects students in his weekly classes at Good Shepherd to learn how to draw or sculpt or mold, he said in an interview that his real goal is an approach to life. “What I try to give students is critical thinking, creative problem-solving.”
He weaves that idea through his curriculum which introduces concepts of art to students as they progress from kindergarten through eighth grade. From the basics of observation, he leads the students through concepts of space, different ways to view the same thing, and projects aimed to make the students think creatively.
The school has also had to use critical thinking and creative problem-solving as it has worked to keep enrollment up. Principal Sharon Hodges is elated that 106 students were registered on the first day of classes this year, the same as last year.
In 2008, she said, enrollment had dipped below 100 students. The school had struggled in recent years to open with 100 students.
Strong parish support and parental involvement have helped, said Hodges, who took over as principal at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Good Shepherd has fundraisers, which Hodges said do not pay for extras but help the school balance its budget.
Jenifer Pileggi, mother of three students, exemplifies the dedication of parents to the school. She became a phys ed and health teacher, added computing skills, and now is an associate principal.
“It’s important for my children to learn about their faith not only at home, but at school,” she said.
Hodges said having an arts program helps Good Shepherd, and considers Hendron a particularly strong arts teacher. “He brings out a creativity that the kids did not know they had,” she said.
Hendron also teaches art three days a week at Mount Aviat Academy in Childs, now in his 16th year, and one day a week at Tome School in Port Deposit.
“Studies show that students who have been exposed to the arts do better on their SATs (college entrance exams),” he said.
Annual art shows are held at Good Shepherd and at Mount Aviat. Good Shepherd’s will be May 14, the same night as a spring concert by students.
He attended Good Shepherd from second through eighth grades, graduating in 1983. As a child he was interested in art — “as a 4- or 5-year-old I did draw Snoopy” — but his formal art education did not begin until he studied under Ann Wood at Perryville High School.
After graduating from Towson University he taught art at Perryville High for several years, first as a colleague of Wood and later, when she retired, taking over her position.
When he and his wife started having children, they decided one parent should stay at home. Hendron became a stay-at-home dad, doing some freelance work as a graphic designer, artist and photographer.
The Hendrons have three children, all of whom attended or attend Mount Aviat.
Six years ago a friend whose daughter attended Good Shepherd told Hendron the art teacher had left, and asked if he would be interested in teaching art there as well as Mount Aviat. “I thought I could give them a year,” he said. He’s stayed on since.
“I get to give the kids what I didn’t get in grade school,” he said.