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Connecting With His Students Through the Arts

Elvin Herrera Posadas has been teaching since the age of 19, and he’s celebrating a decade of teaching and learning here with his colleagues in the Durham Public Schools this year. Ask him and he’ll tell you he’s got the best of both worlds: chasing his passion for teaching and the visual arts simultaneously.  A native of Honduras, the Eastway Elementary Art teacher came to the United States as part of an exchange program for teachers in August 2021.

Herrera brings with him a legacy and rich history of artistic talent. His father and grandfather are musicians, and his interest in the visual arts has driven his professional and personal involvements since childhood. He also plays guitar.

“I want to make an impact in more schools and impress upon them how important art is for leadership, inspiration,and communication,” said Herrera, who began his career teaching English but soon followed his passion. His interest in the arts led him to participation in exhibitions.

“I was able to actually do what I really loved to do,” said Herrera.

As a teacher, he has incorporated the concept of art galleries for his students. Through relationship building, he has managed to have his students’ artwork included in museum exhibits and upscale hotels.

He says Eastway was interested in his work as a teacher and invited him here. That invitation was all he needed to expand his mission as an arts enthusiast and teacher.

“I want to promote my students. I'm looking for those opportunities to engage with people who are connected with the arts so my students can have the same experience. Kids are in the process of learning. They don’t know their talents but once they do, they become great artists. I want people to connect with kids through their expression of the arts,” said Herrera.

Herrera has taught private painting courses in acrylics and watercolors. He’s also sold his artwork, one of the outcomes of having studied painting since the age of eight. The aspiring artist never thought he’d become an educator however.

“I knew that I was good at Art, that I loved Art, but never suspected that I would be teaching Art to kids,” he said.

But he loved it so much, he wanted to share his joy. So he started an after-school program for the arts with about 15 students. After three months, he secured his first gallery exhibition. Then people began requesting that he serve as their children’s art teacher.

Herrera had found a niche where he could . He had also determined that there is a difference between being an artist and someone pushing students to create and explore.

“With the Arts, they could bring their own ideas, solve problems. In my teaching, I

I can provide challenges for them to solve problems and master many things. I try to show how art relates to every subject. Art allows that. Art relaxes and calms but they are still using their brains,” said Herrera. “You want kids to bring their ideas to big issues. They can do beautiful things from that.”

Those “beautiful things” can change the world, he said.

In his native Honduras, Herrera is a co-founder of an organization called Empower Honduras that helps orphaned children learn English and life-skills.  He works to bring scholarship opportunities to them as well, and says it has made a great impact.  

His goal is to see that impact here as well. He says when he showed up at Eastway, he spent time getting to know his students and allowing them to get to know him through an exchange of cultural information. He said the Latino students were impressed by his presence.

“I felt very connected, and I could feel their appreciation,” said Herrera.                                                                             

Once he began establishing relationships, he was able to teach, and his students’ appreciation for art grew. 

“They really feel that they can do many things through the arts. Maybe they’ll be doctors or lawyers, but passionate about humans. I want to create leadership,” said Herrera. “That’s the best thing that a teacher can give to a student, the ability to be leaders.”

He plans to achieve his goals as a teacher, which he sees as social work. 

“My dream as a teacher is just for students to find their purpose in life, for them to collaborate in their world and make it a better place. Teaching provides me that opportunity. We are here for one purpose: to help each other. Helping others gives me life.”