Two Beaufort County teachers have earned awards for their work to share students' art online.
Karen Beltz of Bluffton Elementary School and Donna Sams of Coosa Elementary School both use the website artsonia.com to build a gallery of their students' projects. The website enables family and friends to log on to see the children's art.
"We have so many military children with family in other states or fathers who are overseas. They can see their artwork," Sams said.
Last week, Artsonia presented them with leadership awards, given to teachers who have created large galleries and encouraged interaction with users.
Both teachers have built some of the largest online art galleries in the state. Last year, both uploaded more then 2,000 pieces of student work.
Five other schools in the district are also using Artsonia, which includes more than 12.5 million pieces of art from students worldwide, according to a company spokeswoman.
Both teachers said maintaining the online galleries takes time. Student work has to be photographed, uploaded to the site and edited before it's published. Both said they spend several hours maintaining the gallery each time they add a batch of projects.
The work pays off when they see how much their students enjoy it, they said.
"It motivates the kids, for one thing. It makes them proud of their work," Beltz said. Both Beltz and Sams said students know their work is going online, and they want to make sure it's ready for display.
On the website, friends and relatives can comment on students' work, which is posted with their first name and an ID number. Last year, work posted by both Sams and Beltz elicited more than 400 comments.
Friends and relatives can also sign up to get alerts when their students' new masterpieces are uploaded.
Anyone can purchase coffee mugs, key chains and other items featuring the artwork. Sams said the items are often given as a Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day gift. A percentage of the sales goes back to the schools to be spent on art supplies. Last year, Beltz raised about $300. Sams raised about $185.
Artsonia isn't just about showing off students' work. Both said they've gotten ideas for lessons from looking on other teachers' sites and reviewing their lesson plans. In fact, Sams said she's doing a project with her students next week that she saw on Beltz's site.
The two also check on each others' rankings, which take into account the size of their galleries, as well user interaction. Both said the rankings motivate them to continue to use the site.
"We've got a little competition going on," Sams said. "We encourage each other."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.