Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist,” and for the past 10 years, Pinewood Elementary School art teacher Sheldon Gruber-Lebowitz has encouraged and supported thousands of students to help them realize their potential as artists.
The school and community are now bidding a fond farewell to their beloved teacher, as he began his retirement on Jan. 31. Given a fitting send-off, more than 550 students honored Mr. Lebowitz, as he is known to students, at an assembly on his last day of school. There was also an outpouring of love and appreciation from former students, parents and friends who sent letters, cards and even a few bow ties, in honor of Lebowitz’s signature style.
Lebowitz has touched the lives of students and families for years with his passion for art and for his students. In addition to his varied and interesting art instruction, Lebowitz went above and beyond to display and recognize the artistic talents of his students. He ran a wildly popular after-school Art Service Club, creating original works of art that were used to benefit and enhance the lives of those less fortunate. They worked with organizations like the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (Kids Helping Hopkins), Kennedy Krieger’s Festival of Trees and local retirement homes.
Lebowitz has been a Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) art teacher for more than 30 years, and during that time he has received many awards and accolades. Early on in his career, he was named the BCPS Teacher of the Year while he was at Johnnycake Elementary in 1994.
He was also nominated as the Maryland Art Teacher of the Year in 2016 while at Pinewood Elementary. That same year, Lebowitz was honored with the “Teachers Are Heroes” award from ABC2News. He has also illustrated two children’s books featuring his dog, Ronan the Pomeranian. Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Leibowitz!
Another local illustrator, John Buck of Cockeysville, has a children’s book out, “Pushball: A Game That’s Tasty to Eat!” The story of a “cute little duck who’s quick on his feet, and a fuzzy old groundhog that just likes to eat” is a light-hearted and beautifully drawn book for children ages 3 to 8. Now, in honor of Groundhog’s Day, the Children’s Book Review is offering a giveaway of autographed copies of the book through Feb. 18. Go to www.childrensbookreview.com for the details on the giveaway.
The history behind the book is just as interesting as it has been decades in the making. Author Thomas Leavey and Buck were boyhood friends in New York; they began working on the book back when their own children were small.
Life and work intervened, leading Thomas to a career in film and television, including time with Sesame Street and John to a career as an industrial designer working on power tools and airplanes. After retirement, John revisited those drawings and, finally, “Pushball” was released.
Just like the characters in the book, John and Thomas found that persistence and determination are the way to achieve success.