BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights Public Schools Art teacher Michelle Harpster hasn't allowed the current world crisis to dim her creative spirit. Working as the art teacher for both the Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and Mountain Park Elementary School, Harpster is well known for bringing enthusiasm and originality to all of her lessons, so it is no surprise that she has adapted her plans to the new remote learning structure to ensure that her students can continue to express themselves creatively.

Recently, Harpster challenged her artists from the Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and Mountain Park Elementary School to create artwork and special thank you notes for first responders and those helping during the COVID-19 crisis. Working together, Mary Kay McMillin students in preschool, kindergarten and first grade along with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Mountain Park created more than 60 thank you notes and artwork to show their support. 

This project was a fun way to keep them engaged with art, as well as our current events. "It has been a great experience to see students come together and give thanks during this time," said Harpster.

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Once their work was completed, the students emailed their images to Harpster, who compiled them into multiple collage spreads. These collages were then made into over thirty, 22x14 inch "Thank You" cards. Working alongside Cioffi's Deli and Pizza of Springfield and The Salad House Westfield, Millburn, and Morristown, the cards containing student art are being delivered along with meals to various hospitals around the state.  

Harpster is a graduate of Governor Livingston High School who went on to earn her B.A. in art education and M.A. in studio art with honors specializing in watercolor at Kean University. Upon entry into Kean University, she was the recipient of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship.

As an undergraduate she did her student teaching at Thomas P. Hughes and Mountain Park Schools with Karen Pilkington and at Columbia Middle School with Joseph Lanni. After spending two years teaching art in another district, BHPS brought her back and this is her second year teaching art in the district. 

Beneficiaries of art and food donations include: Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Overlook Hospital, Morristown Hospital, University Hospital of Newark, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth.