Finding balance with optimism
By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Lori King
Growing up in west Michigan, Lori King was torn between athletics and art. “I struggled figuring out who I was in high school. I was very active in sports, but I also loved art. My athletic friends thought I was weird, and my art friends thought it was odd that I always had sports practice.” With her characteristic optimism, King found equilibrium, not just with art and sports, but in her life.
While attending Wayne State University, she studied graphic design and was a camp counselor over the summers. She realized she could combine her love of art and work with kids. She changed her major to art education and again found balance.
After graduating, King taught art in elementary schools in suburban Detroit. She traveled extensively during her teaching breaks, volunteering in Ghana, West Africa and backpacking around Europe. She found herself on stateside adventures as well, in Alaska, Arizona and Colorado. “I started to question if I wanted to work all year and travel during the summer, or take a hefty pay cut and have the Colorado mountains in my backyard year-round.” King chose the mountains and a more balanced lifestyle. She never looked back.
Once here, King quickly immersed herself in the outdoors – skiing, hiking 14ers and she joined a volleyball league in Denver at Washington Park. King’s life recentered again when she met her husband, Greg. They have been married 16 years.
Teaching art in a couple of different elementary schools in metro Denver, King realized she enjoyed working with the older kids best. When a position opened at Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS), she jumped on it. She has been an optimistic grounding presence in the art department for the past decade and a half. King represented RHMS when she won the district Apple Awards in 2015.
King loves teaching art at RHMS. “Rocky Heights is my home. I enjoy the middle school kids. They’re quirky and funny. They make me laugh every day. Middle schoolers are exploring who they are and what they can be. I want students to feel safe to explore creative choices in my room, but I also hope they leave the semester having made something they are proud of.”
This year has presented some teaching and learning challenges, especially for art, but King refuses to be cowed by the limitations and instead chooses to find new opportunities to better her art classes for the future.
“Remote learning has forced teachers to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. Not everything has worked, but I’ve found a few online apps and games that will forever change the way I teach. I’m confident that some positive will come out of this ugly school year.”
One positive is King’s son joined her at RHMS this year. When their son was small, the King family looked at Castle Pines schools. They started at DCS Montessori (DCSM), but their experience with the local Cub Scouts was life changing in a positive way, and the family moved here five years ago. Attending DCSM for the early elementary years, then transitioning to Buffalo Ridge Elementary for the last couple of primary years, allowed King’s son to have more established friends going into sixth grade at RHMS.
In addition to Scouts, the King family has been involved with the Castle Crocs Swim team, and Lori has participated in a few bike rides with the Castle Pines Cycling Club. “Castle Pines is a wonderful community,” she stated. As a family, they love the close opportunities for outdoor adventures like paddleboarding, camping, Jeeping and hiking. King cherishes her family and adventure time, as well as her opportunity to engage creatively with middle school kids in her art room. She has created balance and joy.