At the 2016 International Society for Technology Education Conference in Denver, CO, Peter H. Reynolds had the good fortune to meet an exceptional educator, Alice Gentili.
Alice shared the story of Shea, a young art student, and the transformative effect of International Dot Day.
This is her story in her own words:
Late March 2008, I was six and I had a headache.
Then I could barely walk and I passed out. My dad drove me to the hospital. My mom came shortly afterward. It was discovered later that day that I had an AVM blood vessel in my brain, and it had ruptured.
An AVM is a knot of a bunch of blood vessels in the brain. They are very rare. They occur in less than one percent of the world's population. Even then they are less common in females, the chances of surviving one are slim.
Even if one did manage to survive they would likely suffer severe side effects, such as severe brain damage, field vision loss, blindness, numbness or weakness in one or more areas of the body, language difficulties, or not being able to walk again.
The doctors suspected that, even though I would have to get surgery, I would not survive. I have left side weakness now. Although that is partially because I got Bell’s Palsy twice on the left side of my face before I turned two. I also have partial field vision loss on the left side of each of my eyes. I still have 20/20 vision otherwise though.
It was in art class in fifth grade.
That day my art teacher, Mrs. Gentili, told us it was International Dot Day. That was a day named after a picture book, "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds.
Mrs. Gentili read the book to us and there was one sentence, that I remember, that inspired me, that ended up influencing who I am as an artist. The sentence read, "Make a mark and see where it takes you."
We had to draw dots of our own after reading the book. That gave me an idea, and when I get an idea there's no stopping me. When I got home that day I pulled out a small, unused sketchbook and some markers. Probably the least sophisticated markers of all time but they worked for me.
When I was at my little brother's soccer practice that day I began. I drew a dot that resemblesa marble of sorts, using four different colors: light blue, bright blue, light green, and bright purple.
About a month or so later I came into art class with a completed dot journal. It was filled with dots I had drawn with similar designs as the first and all sorts of colors. Mrs. Gentili loved it, she made a video of it and put it on YouTube.
I would go to create more dot journals after that, as well as taking sculpture classes and other classes. Completing a collection of more than 365 drawings on Sketchbook Express, and finishing at least two other sketchbooks. I am in the process of finishing a third. Circles, dots would be a part of almost every drawing, painting, or sculpture I did after that.
Eighth grade was my last year in middle school. We had a little graduation ceremony and an awards ceremony before hand. I was one of the two people who got the Georgia O'Keefe award.
Afterwards somehow everyone in the school knew who I was. Probably because my fifth grade art teacher, Mrs. Gentili put it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter because she was so proud of me. I honestly didn't like the attention and publicity at first. I'm not mad at her for it though. I saw her, Mrs. Gentili, afterwards. She told me that she felt that it all began with "The Dot," my dot journals. I told her she was right. It did.
"The Dot" turned the visual arts into my number one passion.