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Restless Students Get Lessons in Art--and Life--Aboard Traveling Bus 'Gallery'

July 20, 1986|Herbert J. Vida

You can't imagine how happy the kids were when the cops stopped them from hanging their colorful drawings on the bus windows. It meant they finally got respect for their art.

"The highway patrol said the paintings could be a distraction to bus and car drivers," said Wilma LeMon of Santa Ana, who keeps the sometimes restless special-education students busy by giving art assignments on the bus to and from schools in Tustin.

In fact, said LeMon, the traveling art show helped reduce "inappropriate" behavior and lessened the number of citations for bad conduct.

Her clever approach to art paid off not only in fewer discipline problems, "but it teaches the children valuable lessons in art and in life," said LeMon, who earned her master's degree in the humanities from USC. "If they learn to be kind to one another through art, they probably won't punch your lights out."

That tact is paying off, said LeMon, who has been walking the bus aisle for the past 10 years ("Learning how to walk in a moving bus was my first priority," she said), and has received appreciation awards from the Tustin Unified School District for her efforts.

So taken by the art itself, the school district held a two-week "School Bus Art Show" at the district headquarters.

When she first took the bus assignment, LeMon's initial approach was to draw pencil portraits of the student riders to get their attention. "Pretty soon they wanted to do the drawing themselves," she said, "and they got to be pretty good drawing things familiar to them, such as skateboards, the Cabbage Patch doll and cartoon characters. That's why we put the pictures on the bus windows, to make it sort of a daily art show."

The art show continues, but instead of putting the pictures on the window, they're hung above the windows. For those who do outstanding work, colored pencils and crayons are awarded.

"Pretty soon I began bringing in copies of the great works of art," said LeMon, "and explaining to them how the colors of the rainbow are used and to emphasize art principles."

But with all that, LeMon not only had to keep a close check on the 55 students who ride the bus daily during the school year, but "I had to caution myself each morning about safety when I walked the bus aisle. Once I did that we'd get into the aesthetics."

Randy Lewis, 32, of Santa Ana sent a note questioning what's next after reading about a boxing card in Irvine to benefit a school for the orthopedically handicapped. He wondered if the future events will be a benefit cookie sale for the American Diabetes Assn. or a chili cook-off for the American Heart Assn.

It started out as just another day for postal carrier Linda Shaffer, 31, of Fullerton, as she delivered mail in Orange, except she heard a car motor running in the closed garage at one of her regular stops. The homeowner there usually said hello.

"I just walked in a side door and saw a hose running from the tail pipe to the driver's seat where he was sitting," said Shaffer, who has been delivering mail for a year. "I shut the motor, pulled him out into the air and called 911."

After paramedics arrived, Shaffer called her supervisor to say that she might be late, and then finished the rest of her route.

Police credit her with saving the man's life.

"I'm real protective of my customers," Shaffer said.

Ellen and Mark Eliot of Laguna Hills called to say that they're sending notices to friends and relatives telling them that their daughter, Ashley, has declared her independence. She was born this July 4th. Cute.

"Black Belt Assertion Training"? It sounds deadly, but instructor Dan Kraft, 39, of Dana Point said that despite the descriptive title of his class at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, it's just an advanced version of teaching people to look out for their own rights. "The class gives you some sort of expertise in assertiveness," he said, "but the skill is still done with respect for others." He said most class members are women.

Acknowledgments--Roger Steffensof Anaheim's Danbrook Elementary School ran 56 laps around the school track to become the top runner among 76 people who completed 2,632 laps to raise money for the Statue of Liberty restoration. The event raised $658.

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