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Easton Teacher Leaves Footprint With Artwork

Roberta Cioppa has paintings hanging in her hometown's Town Hall, the hospital where she was born, her place of worship and now where she has taught art for the past 32 years.

At the end of June, Cioppa will pack up her room, which 8,000 students have passed through while she has taught art since her first day at Helen Keller Middle School in Easton.

"I never went to work. I've always gone to school," said Cioppa. "I never referred to it as work ... and I would never have changed anything."

For the past 32 years, Cioppa picked up her white chalk and wrote on her blackboard, "We must learn to 'see' when we are 'looking'" at the beginning of each school year. She then told her students the same story of a boy staring out the window at a family of deer. When another boy says, "Hey, did you see that?" The boy says "no" — because he was just looking without actually seeing.

Cioppa was a professional artist before becoming a teacher. "I combined the two things I love most – art and children," she said. "I like to share my knowledge and I have a love of art. The symbols that we see and first recognize – the communication goes back to the cave walls."

Through art, Cioppa has seen parts of the students' personalities that they don't even realize they have. When a girl draws a horse, Cioppa said that represents a student who has an appreciation for nature and animals – "different from someone who is more superficial in what they like."

She said she occasionally feels postpartum depression when students leave for high school – "I love 'em a little bit," she said.

Cioppa is "only retiring from children" and will work on being a full-time artist, painting and writing. She plans to tell the story of a woman — herself — who has been through every war since 1945. "It will be how I responded to war as a child, as a middle-age person and how I respond to it now. It has evolved, and it's all very frightening."

As part of leaving her mark, Cioppa has left a painting of a former first selectman at the Trumbull Town Hall, her hometown; a painting of a mother and daughter at St. Vincent's Hospital, where she was born; and three paintings of monsignors at St. Theresa's Church, her place of worship. At Helen Keller Middle School, she leaves her painting of Joan Parker, the principal who died in November.

She offers portraits in oils, pastels and bronze and landscapes and still life in oils and watercolor. She has artwork in private and public collections, has received many art awards and has been featured in multiple one-man shows. For more information, contact Roberta Cioppa at cioppart@aol.com .

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