Hayes Intermediate School art teacher Camilla McComb has a philosophy about art she wants her students to learn and carry with them through life.

Hayes Intermediate School art teacher Camilla McComb has a philosophy about art she wants her students to learn and carry with them through life.

"I want people to understand that human beings are intrinsically artistic people," she said. ""I want to instill in my fifth- and sixth-grade students the notion of thinking of themselves as artists."

McComb is the 2012 recipient of the Ohio Art Education Association's central region Outstanding Art Teacher award.

"It was a huge surprise to receive the award and what is also surprising to me is the fuss everyone is making about it," she said.

McComb was presented the award last month at the OAEA conference in Cincinnati.

"To be honored in front of my peers was special," she said.

Art education is important not only to help students develop their artistic skills but to learn how to think as artists, McComb said.

"A lot of people have great ideas, but they don't know how to execute them," she said.

Sadly, many adults she talks to answer in the negative when she asks them if they are artists, McComb said.

Too many people think of art only in terms of a finished product like a painting, she said.

In fact, we are all artists, whether it's using a paintbrush, decorating a room or picking out what we're going to wear for a night out, McComb said.

Research shows that students in the grades she teaches -- fifth and sixth -- begin having a "crisis of confidence," and that impacts their artistic thinking, she said.

"All of my fifth-grade students think they are artists," McComb said. "But by sixth grade they're becoming super aware that people are watching them and many of them start hiding their drawings and comparing their work to other students' " who might be "good at art."

"So much of their life is rule-bound and product-driven," McComb said. "They take standardized tests and even on the video games they play, the path is dictated.

"The great thing about art is that you don't have to be rule-bound," she said. "In art, you have so many avenues you can choose."

To help her students think as artists, McComb has them use her "Artistic Thinking Checklist," which includes eight steps to thinking about art.

"Making art is only one-eighth of the equation," she said.

She has her students take photographs to document their artistic thinking as they work through a project.

A Grove City High School graduate, McComb has spent most of her career teaching in South-Western schools.

"I was always interested in art and my mother encouraged me by taking me to (an arts and crafts store) on weekends," she said. "I really give her credit for helping to develop my interest"

But the idea of being an artist was something McComb never seriously considered growing up.

"I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and there was the question of how could you really make a living as an artist," she said.

"I was majoring in business in college and not doing very well, when I made some friends who were art education majors and they suggested that was a field I might want to consider," McComb said.

Teaching art has been a joy, she said.

The blessing for her is to have the opportunity to help shape and inspire her students' thinking about what it means to be an artist, McComb said. "The challenge is I have so little time with my students," with each student only spending 34 hours in her class over the entire school year.

"You wish you had more time, but then I think every teacher wishes that," she said.