Excellent Educators is a WAVY-TV 10 initiative to celebrate local teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students and communities during the last academic year. These Excellent Educators were nominated by their school divisions. Congratulations to these educators for all of their hard work and accomplishments!

Name: Clayton Singleton

Division: Norfolk Public Schools

Position: Visual art and AP art teacher at Lake Taylor High School

What the school division said about this Excellent Educator: Clayton Singleton is Norfolk Public Schools’ city-wide Teacher of the Year and high school Teacher of the Year. He teaches visual art and AP art at Lake Taylor High School. He considers himself more of a guide than a teacher.

His classes focus on growth, not grades. Singleton believes there is too much of an emphasis on providing students with what they don’t have that nurturing what they do have is missed. This is not the case in room 126! His classroom is a safe place for kids to practice life and learn from mistakes.

As he nears 30 years with NPS, Singleton will sprint through the finish line reminding students of two things: “You are worth the work” and “art is everywhere!”

WAVY-TV 10’s Marielena Balouris interviewed this educator.

In Clayton Singleton’s classroom, art is more than meets the eye.

“They understand that art is everywhere,” Singleton said. “It’s not some thing or some place, it’s not some museum or gallery-held items. It’s not some famed work by dead people you’re never going to meet. It’s life and it’s everywhere.”

That’s the first lesson his students learn.

“They’re bombarded with who they’re supposed to be and when they get here, they get to decide and then practice that process of decision-making,” said Singleton.

That’s the second lesson.

“You don’t just find yourself, but you also define yourself,” he said. “You got to work through these ideas, you got to work through these thumbnail sketches of yourself.”

Singleton started teaching in 1994 in the city where it all started.

“I’m a product of Norfolk Public Schools,” Singleton said. “Graduated Norview in ’88, all of my schooling was in Norfolk and it’s my home. It’s where my family lives, it’s where my friends are. It’s where I became who I am so it’s where I need to be. I don’t need to be anywhere else but here.”

He’s currently at Lake Taylor High School, chairing the fine arts department and teaching numerous art classes.

“It’s the constant discovery of who you are,” said Singleton. “It’s the constant discovery of who you can become.”

Singleton was recently named Norfolk’s High School Teacher of the Year and City-Wide Teacher of the Year — honors that mean a lot to him.

He said, “For a group of people to come together and say that what I’m doing means that much…I want to cry more than I already cried. Just makes me feel good about my approach to teaching.”

It’s an approach his students love.

“You can really build a connection with him, and I don’t get that with a lot of teachers,” said student Angel Barnard. “If you need help with anything, you can always go to him and he’ll listen to you and try to help you out.”

And when his students really grasp something new, Singelton says it’s incredible.

“They have these five-year-old eyes, that sends me to the moon, like that is just the best thing on the planet,” he said. “It’s extremely parental. It’s like watching these kids that live with you do something for the first time.”

That’s what keeps him coming back day after day, imparting life lessons with every stroke of the pencil.

“You are worth the work,” Singelton said. “Put the work into yourself, you know what I mean? Work hard, if you will, but most importantly, work with joy. Because you are worth it, like you have an intrinsic worth that is bigger than any value that anyone puts on you.”