CURRENT MAGAZINE:
We are proud to honor the Sand Springs Public Schools Central 9th Grade Center’s art teacher Leland Leslie.
Having already been decked out in accomplishments, the visionary is now polishing off his 2017-18 Sand Springs Public Schools Teacher of the Year Award.
We got a chance to speak with Leslie on his newly acclaimed prize, how he came to receive it, and why he loves teaching. When asked about his teaching history, he professed his love for teaching specifically in Sand Springs.
“When I came to Sand Springs I realized that there was another way a school can be,” Leslie said. “I was very happy with that. We are truly a community of educators and our administrators are exceptional.”
Leslie tells us he was surprised and humbled to receive the honors after serving more than 11 years for the school district. But don’t let the art be the only thing that fools you about Leslie! He’s also taught social studies and math, too.
While gracing the Tulsa area with more than 23 years of teaching experience, his love of art has sent him around the world. He’s studied Japanese aesthetics in Japan, before traveling back to Japan again as a specialist in Japanese ceramics to write curriculum for Japanese studies. Fund For Teachers even gave him a grant to travel to Italy to study the art and architecture of the Classical and Renaissance time periods.
One of the reasons Leslie has made such a great candidate for the award is because of his love for his students. He is certified to teach mild to moderate disability students, as well as severe to profound disability students. He told us he loves his classes so much, he’s used a Foundation Grant to give back to his classes with the purchase of a SMART Board, wireless tablet, and a computer.
But nothing brings that love back around like seeing where your kids go after they leave your class. Leslie found one such student practicing art in another state.
“I just attended an opening for one of my students several months ago that went to Kansas City Arts Institute and trained,” Leslie said. “Now he’s a professional painter and has a studio.”
Leslie is active in the arts and education community in Sand Springs and in the U.S. He’s been  a volunteer and coach for the Special Olympics of Oklahoma before. He’s also a member of the National Education Foundation, Oklahoma Education Association, the Oklahoma Art Education Association, the Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education, and the American Historical Association.
But above all, Leslie continues to make an impact on the Sand Springs community and our youth. He’s currently in the process of starting a Sand Springs Arts & Humanities Council for Sand Springs ARTS!, the city’s first-ever non-profit arts council. He says he hopes the council will serve as the hub of all things art in town, hoping they will hold fundraisers throughout the year to raise money and gain partners.
“These are your children and our students but we still call them our kids. We appreciate the opportunity to make a difference for the students in Sand Springs. Thank you for sharing your students with us.”
If you’d like to reach Leland Leslie, you can email him at leland.leslie@sandites.org.