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Art teacher retires from APW Elementary, leaves behind a sparkling legacy


A mosaic that started as a yearlong Morning Program project at Altmar Elementary eight years ago has been recently completed. The current design now hangs in the halls of APW Elementary School.           

            “The mosaic has been a big part of my life the last couple of years,” said art teacher Donna O’Hara. O’Hara was on the Morning Program team that originally planned the mosaic’s design. Superintendent Jerry Hudson was still the elementary principal at the time.

            The mosaic is made up of several mediums, and its pieces have been collected since the 2005-06 school year. O’Hara picked up purple shells from Maryland, coral from Florida and a fifth grade teacher donated seashells from Costa Rica.

            Standing back and looking at the mosaic is like a walk down memory for O’Hara. She remembers students in class cutting out the clay animals, and painting them with acrylics. The kiln in the art room was used to glaze the sun pieces.

            Kindergarteners, now in seventh grade, textured discs to make up pieces of the sky. First graders at the time made suns, second graders salmon for the river, third graders the trees and fourth graders the clay kids. This year’s seniors made the animals and birds.

            During the consolidated move of the three elementary schools, O’Hara took home the students pieces along with other tile and rocks.

            In the 2012-13 school year, O’Hara redesigned, organized, glued, grouted, painted, cleaned and sealed all the pieces into one 4 x 9 mosaic. She used the all-purpose room in her home to work on the project.

            Woodworker John O’Hara, Donna’s husband, installed the panels before the start of school with the assistance of Building Maintenance Helper Henry Gloude and Nick Phillips.

            The 2014-13 school year is the start of O’Hara’s 24th year in the district; she will retire on Nov. 22. Since September she has put the finishing touches on the plaque, which dedicates the mosaic to APW Elementary. The Altmar Parent Group contributed to the plaque, donating $600 for the tile mastic, grout and other materials.

            O’Hara didn’t begin teaching until later in life, starting as a teacher assistant in Camden where she lives. O’Hara went on to teach at all three of APW’s elementary schools.

            O’Hara hopes in her time as a teacher that she’s helped a student see something in themselves that they hadn’t before. In her retirement, she would like to make art on commission, organize years of vacation photographs and spend time with her first grandchild.

            Nicole Fuller will become O’Hara’s permanent replacement. Fuller taught art at Pulaski Middle School for three years.

Pictured is retiring APW Elementary School art teacher Donna O’Hara with the school’s recently installed mosaic. O’Hara has worked on the mosaic exclusively for two months, but the project began with students in 2005-06. The mosaic features the Salmon River, which used to run behind the school. It is the first mosaic that O’Hara has ever worked on.

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Altmar-Parish-Williamstown School District 639 County Route 22 P.O. Box 97 Parish, NY 13131 315-625-5251 Fax: 315-625-7952