Making a Difference:
KET Arts Toolkits

When I found the toolkits, I felt like I’d been saved.

Garlene Layne-Abshire

Pike County Visual Arts Teacher

Meeting and overcoming challenges, you could say, is almost a way of life for Pike County teacher Garlene Layne-Abshire. So when the veteran visual arts teacher was asked to also teach dance and drama to 5th graders, she turned to KET and the Arts Toolkits to gain the resources and confidence she needed.

“I was in shock,” recalled Layne-Abshire. “I had no clue as to how to go about teaching these areas of the Core Content to 84 young, absorbent minds. I was left speechless.”

It had been a rough year for the Pike County native. The previous spring, her 16-year-old son had suffered a life-threatening four-wheeler accident and remained hospitalized in Lexington. And now she was being asked to teach subjects far outside the realm of her specialty, a challenge many teachers across the state face.

Though familiar with a broad range of the humanities in her personal life—she is, after all, president of the Pike County Arts Council—nothing in her background prepared her for how to approach instruction in drama and dance. Hours of research on the web left her confused and frustrated.

But after she conferred with colleagues at Johns Creek School and called upon KET Education Consultant Cynthia Warner, dawn soon began to break.

“One thing I kept hearing repeated was, ‘Use the KET toolkits,’” she said. “When Cynthia suggested the toolkits and all the vast materials that they offered, I knew that I had found a lifeline.

“When I found the toolkits, I felt like I’d been saved.”

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While at her son’s bedside, Layne-Abshire pored over the KET Arts Toolkits and their lesson plans, comparing them with the Core Content requirements for 5th-grade arts and humanities. Soon she developed a curriculum, incorporating some lessons wholesale and adapting others to fit her students’ needs.

For example, she asked her students to interview their parents and the oldest person they knew about dance. What types of dances did they do when they were younger? What did their parents say about that style of dance?

“You could really tell the age groups that students had interviewed by the responses they shared,” she said. “I received many comments from parents and grandparents about how they enjoyed the interviews.”

Creative problem solving or typical M.O.? Probably the latter. A beautician for 17 years, Layne-Abshire was forced to abandon that line of work in 1982 after a car accident left her with a serious back injury of her own. She secured a position in the registrar’s office at Pikeville College and, taking advantage of tuition-free courses, enrolled in a beginning art class. More classes followed, and at the urging of her art instructor, she became a full-time non-traditional student, completed her bachelor’s degree, and was on her way to becoming an art teacher. A master’s degree followed, and in 2004 she received her National Board Certification.

“She’s a very enthusiastic teacher,” said Johns Creek principal Reed Adkins. “We’re more than pleased with everything she’s done so far.”

Pleased and recognized. After Layne-Abshire’s first year of using the toolkits in collaboration with the school’s music instructor, the arts and humanities CATS score rose from 68.63 to 112.24.

“I was shocked—I was blown away,” she said, “just absolutely flabbergasted. I know that without the toolkits and the KET web site to aid me, I would have truly struggled in bringing forth meaningful instruction in dance and drama.”