GODFREY — Two St. Ambrose School students were recently celebrated for being winners in the annual Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) national Christmas artwork contest. Mya Pickens and Kenzie Ingram were both recognized during an outdoor assembly when Donna Moore, director for Pro-Life, Missions and Special Ministries, visited the school a few weeks ago.
Every year the MCA invites students in grades K-8 in Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, and Catholic home school programs to submit Christmas-themed artwork to be considered for the contest. Typically, the winning artwork is displayed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 the pictures are not on display this year, Moore said.
Moore pointed out that St. Ambrose students have been honored nationally in the Christmas art contest 11 times in the past nine years. Katie Preston, who is the fine arts teacher at St. Ambrose, said she is naturally thrilled that her students have excelled in the contest so many times. “I think having 11 winners really speaks to the talent and creativity our students have at St. Ambrose,” she said. “I do my best to give my students the basic skills they need in art, but it is their creativity and skill that comes through in their work. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Preston has been teaching art for nine years, and music for 20 years. “When I began teaching, I was also assigned other subjects to fill my workload. Our previous art teacher retired and there had not been art for several years when I asked the administration to bring back art and let me combine art and music into a fine arts class.”
Preston says her students look forward to the MCA contest. “I usually do the projects with grades K-8. We spend time talking about the Christmas story and what the Nativity is. We have read story books, listened to music, and looked at examples from previous years to get ideas,” she said. “I leave it very open-ended, so the students choose which option to illustrate and what materials to use. We usually complete the artwork right after we come back from Christmas break. It’s a great time because we are still in the Catholic Church’s season of Christmas and we have more time since our Christmas program is over.”
At St. Ambrose, all the winning MCA artwork is framed and displayed in the main entrance of the school. “That way, students and visitors alike can see the amazing work of our students,” Preston said, adding that teaching is all about the students. “What I love most about my job is the kids. I am so blessed to be able to teach the subjects I am passionate about and inspire my students to find a love for the arts.”