Meet the SAAC Teachers

Gay Bechtelheimer

Gay Bechtelheimer – Fine Art

When we nurture creativity in children, we are preparing for the future. We are providing then with tools to excel in all arenas: math, science, social studies, and of course, art. A creative thinker is able to see all facets of the crystal and is empowered to solve problems with a variety of solutions and become more tolerant of diverse ideas.

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Michaela Gross – Fine Art

Michaela currently works as a paraprofessional at Yocum Elementary School where she does behavior and reading intervention. She is also currently in school at South Arkansas College where she will graduate in May of 2024 with her Associates of Education.  She then plans to complete her education at South Arkansas University in Magnolia where she would like to major in either studio art or education.  Ultimately, she wants to teach art in schools.  When she’s not working or doing homework, Michaela enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.  She and her husband are currently expecting their third child.  When she has a minute to herself, Michaela also enjoys sewing and reading.

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Haley Phillips – Theatre

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Charlsie Langley – Voice & Piano

I am a vocal music director currently serving as the choir director of Barton Junior High. I also teach private voice and piano at the South Arkansas Arts Center. I have also been the music director for “Singin’ in the Rain” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in the Callaway Theater. A classically trained vocalist, I received my bachelor’s degree in Vocal/Keyboard Music Education at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and studied vocal music at the Salzburg College through the Miami Frost School of Music.

Lynn Gunter – Theatre

Lynn Gunter has a BA in Speech Communications and traveled the Tri-State and national collegiate circuit in forensics and debate. She has directed eight productions on the SAAC stage, including Penguin Project productions and Drama Club productions. She has directed four productions at West Side Christian School and countless VBS productions in various churches. A Crossett native, her love for theatre began as a first grader when her class participated in a reader’s theater program on the local radio station. This love continued through high school and college and into church drama groups. She was able to insert theatrical presentations in her various workplaces as a BSU Collegiate Student Coordinator, Residence Hall Director at Baylor University, teacher, as well as her 25 years as a homeschool mom.

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Laura Day – Ballet

Laura Day grew up dancing for 10 years at the Academy Dance Center in Mt. Pleasant, TX. She is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University where she double-majored in biblical studies and family and consumer sciences.  Laura is currently a stay-at-home mom where she homeschools her 5 children.  When she’s not dancing, homeschooling, or spending time with her family, Laura enjoys gardening, cooking, and watercolor painting.

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Nicole McAdams – Fine Art

I was born and raised in Conway, AR. I moved to El Dorado after I graduated college 8 years ago, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Art has been a part of my life since I was little and I attribute my continued passion for it to many of my incredible teachers growing up. I knew that I wanted to invest in students the way many teachers invested in me, so I dreamed of becoming a teacher. My undergrad degrees are in Mass Communications and Graphic Design. After a few years working as a graphic designer, I decided to wholeheartedly pursue my teaching dream. I’ve been a teacher in the public school system for 5 years now and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Teaching art is a dream I love living out each day. My goal as a teacher is to provide a safe space for my students to explore their creativity and to learn new skills.

Mike Means

Mike Means – Computer Graphics

I grew up in Fayetteville, where I did my first rendering of Snoopy on my bedroom wall. Since then I have worked in many other media, including graphite, colored pencil, and pastel, as well as on the computer. Drawing will always be my first love. While serving in the U.S. Navy in Japan, the Philippines, and Hawaii, I worked as a graphic artist. Since leaving the service, I have worked in the graphics shop at International Paper, done advertising and catalogue layout for several local companies, and done freelance work for many groups in south Arkansas. I love working with the computer to create art and sharing the knowledge that I have gathered over the years. There is a “wow factor” when you show students what computer programs can do. Painting using Photoshop and other computer programs is just as fun and rewarding as pencils and oil paints. I teach art in the Computer Graphics class at SAAC, and I am an active Artist In Education.  My newest art related gig is as a Crystal Bridges Teaching Artist which is a program that puts artists in local elementary schools to do ART Projects in the fourth grade classes.  Most people just need help getting started, and that is where I hope to help children and adults alike. I wanted to break from the traditional graphics classes and show just what you can do on the computer from an artist’s point of view. Making the computer work for you as an artist is my goal.

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Lisa Burton Tarver – Photography

I am a native of El Dorado. My love of photography began with memories of the black and white images taken by my father. I asked many questions, but I learned photography through trial and error. I have found that photography has awakened the artist in me. I am the Photographer in Residence at the SAAC where I photograph events and people. I enjoy sharing what I have learned through my 22 years of experience. I specialize in black and white photography, dark room techniques, copycat Polaroid system and digital photography. I have also worked with holgaroid and Polaroid manipulations. I enjoy sharing what I have learned through my 22 years of experience. My approach to photography in a classroom setting is to introduce students to the fascinating and powerful world of photography. Students are exposed to the possibility that they can have the ability to create art using the camera as brush and the film as canvas. Children are amazing because their minds are like little sponges to absorb, learn and have fun. By being exposed to photography, they can learn to express themselves in a positive way.
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Katie Harwell – Fine Art

Katie Harwell currently teaches art at El Dorado High School and has been teaching art in the district for 18 years. She is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design.  When not teaching art, Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids as well as spending time on the family farm.

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Jorge Villegas – Fine Art

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I like my art to connect to the universe, to the most elevated emotions, to express and make contact. Art tells us it is ok to search for what we feel and helps us recognize ourselves. I like to work with mixed media, color pencils, graphite, oils, acrylics or any medium that will render the expression. Teaching art gives me the opportunity to develop “individuals” as human beings with an appreciation for the greatness. Visual arts are learned in the making, which means the child has to do it him/herself to discover who he or she is in their own way. I like to see students’ faces in the moment of discovery. I like to bring in good music, art history, and literature to bring attention to human excellence. I like to help them learn to think and make aesthetic choices and develop common sense. The expression of our individuality empowers us, because we have the right and the potential to shape our environment and community. The development and respect of children’s personalities is very important. We are lucky to have a place where our kids are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and discoveries and search for their own talents. Development of their uniqueness validates and enriches them and us.
Maria Villegas

Maria Villegas – Fine Art

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been an artist since I remember. First, I discovered dance and singing, later painting and drawing. One of my cousins was a professional artist and was my mentor. He encouraged me to sketch my surroundings and nature. After my college years, I worked as a professional instructor and teacher, and even as an art dealer before I came to the United States in 1991. In 1993, I became an Arkansas Arts Council Artist in Residence, and since then, I’ve been developing myself as an artist and as an educator. I like painting and drawing in any medium. I teach because I like to communicate what I know. I also teach because it is like magic. I give and receive at the same time. Students’ responses to my classes inspire me to create new projects. In my teaching, I hope to make students appreciate life and the world around them. I enjoy helping them through the process of discovering and experimentation. Our world is full of traditions and art, so the more we learn about them the better. To do this, I often add music, movement and some Spanish language. Art regenerates the individual who becomes involved in it. Through making art, children and adults learn about themselves, to trust in their own experiences, and see their products as a source of pride.
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Caroline Callaway – Ballet

Growing up, Caroline Callaway danced for 10 years under the direction of Marilyn Russell at SAAC.  Caroline is currently the Sales & Marketing Manager of the El Dorado Conference Center. She is a graduate of Ole Miss where she majored in print journalism with an emphasis in news design and minored in anthropology.  Caroline also has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Education in Library Media Information Sciences from Southern Arkansas University.  In her free time, Caroline enjoys reading or listening to fantasy books, hanging out with her friends and her dogs Myrtle and Rocco, and traveling to visit her niece Phoebe.