Art education student-teacher shares student’s Valentine’s Day cards

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Laren Reesman, Staff writer

Valentine’s Day is not only an opportunity for couples every-where to splurge on cards, chocolate and stuffed animals; it can also be a day to reach out and let sick and disheartened individuals know they are in their communities’ thoughts and prayers.

Victoria (Tori) Riina, a senior art education student at Mercyhurst, shows us that Valentine’s Day can be uplifting even for those in difficult situations. Through her student teaching placement, she coordinated a Valentine’s Day card project for those who needed some extra love.

Riina mailed cards made by her students out to two places in the Erie community in need of support: Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.

Tori, affectionately called Ms. Riina, or Ms. Rhino by her quirky students, is currently a student teacher at Wattsburg Elementary School, bringing art education into the lives of K-4th graders. It was a printmaking lesson for the 2nd and 3rd grade that inspired Tori to organize Valentine’s Day cards for the Erie community members.

She has a no-waste policy in the classroom and taught her students how to make ghost prints from the leftover paint on printmaking palettes.

“I was looking at these huge sheets of ghost prints, and I thought they would make really cool cards,” Riina said.

Tori cut between 150-200 cards for her students to decorate along with a generic Happy Valentine’s Day message glued to each one. About half went to Shriner’s while the other half were mailed to the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.

Shriner’s responded enthusiastically to the cards and contacted Riina to let her know that the school would receive a thank you card from the hospital. Tori expanded the project to all age groups at the school, allowing anyone who finished a class project early to participate. “They [2nd and 3rd grade] loved doing the ghost prints, and the 4th graders were really excited about filling out the cards,” Riina said.

Some of the cards contained cute misspellings, funny drawings, and pick-me-up puns; perfect for recipients of all ages. In the age of technology, especially in this time of hardship, Tori knew that receiving a card in the mail would be memorable for whoever received it. Tori knew her students would respond positively to the project because they have shown excitement in art class thus far. She frequently gets comments like “[Y]ou’re super nice!” and “[Y]ou’re the goodest art teacher ever!”She even started a quote book collecting any sweet or funny comments her students make.

During a previous project work-ing with ink, one of her students called from the back of the classroom: “Ms. Riina, is this made from octopuses?”

Riina hopes to make community outreach through education and art somewhat of a prerogative for the school in the future. Art, especially children’s art, re-ally can make adverse situations bearable, whether it is a drawing hung on a family’s fridge or a Happy Valentine’s Day from a perfect stranger.