Recognizing Students’ Talents


When Akiane Kramarik entered an art competition as a very young contestant, her parents were told by the jury that she had no artistic talent. A couple of years later, at the age of eight, she painted “Prince of Peace,” a painting that was eventually sold to a private collector for $850,000. She is considered by many to be a very accomplished artist and poet.

Since I first learned of Akiane’s story and found a strong emotional connection with her paintings, poetry, and short films, I realized that young children’s strengths should always be noticed. I developed a conviction that one of the most important roles of a teacher is to help parents recognize and support young talents as early as possible.

I would encourage every teacher to look into their own childhood. Were your talents discovered by your parents and teachers? How did it complement your life when you were choosing your education and career? Do you feel that your strengths were celebrated when you were a young child? Did it influence your confidence later in life? Do you feel fulfilled with the way your career turned out?

I was very lucky to be recognized as a good writer by my grade one teacher. At the age of seven, I created a book that my teacher fell in love with. She shared it not only with my parents but also with every teacher at my school. My writing talent was celebrated early in my life. It helped me to become a journalist in Poland soon after I finished university. When I came to Canada, one of my most important goals was to become proficient in English. Eventually, I was able to express my views and experiences through writing articles, essays, and reflections in my second language.

There was, however, another strong interest in me that was overlooked by my parents and teachers in my early childhood. When I was six, my mother took me to work one day. She had a conference with her boss, and I was left with his secretary. I was given a pencil and a white sheet of paper. For an hour, I drew figures. In my mind, they were my walking and talking dolls. It was a dream of mine to have a city of dolls that would interact with each other like people, and I would be their confidant and emotional supporter.

After I finished the drawing, the secretary looked at it and said, “What you drew is incredible. Who are these people in your drawing?”

“They are my dolls. I can talk to them. They are alive,” I answered. “I can really see that,” she replied.

At that moment, my mother finished her meeting. The secretary enthusiastically shared with her how impressed she was with my drawing. My mother, who was preoccupied with her thoughts following the meeting, didn’t react. She didn’t look at my drawing, and for the rest of my childhood, I was not interested in art.

Eventually, both of my parents recognized my creativity when I started painting as an adult. They framed every oil painting or watercolour I created, and placed them on the walls of their apartment. When I became a teacher in Canada and used my artistic skills with my students, I often thought, how would my life, including my career, have turned out if my mother had recognized my drawing as special and had given me the tools in my childhood to develop my talent? Would I have chosen a high school that was considered to be a very prestigious art school located 15 kilometres away from my hometown? Would I have enrolled myself in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw after finishing high school? Would I have become an art teacher in Canada? What influence on others would I have had if my talent had been recognized and started developing early enough?

Akiane Kramarik has said many times in her interviews that without her parents, who believed in her talent, she would never have achieved the level of success that she is enjoying now at the age of 29. Asked in one of the interviews (aired on YouTube on January 16, 2024) what she would say to her younger self now, she answered, “I would watch her. I would like to hug her. I would say Good job! Keep going!” In the same interview, Akiane advised parents to be present in their children’s lives, be patient, and let them experiment. “My mother was a pillar in my life,” she added. “She nourished and cultivated my talent.”

I give credit to parents and believe that they would like to do their best to really see their children’s abilities. However, there are some parents who don’t have the strength to do that. The parents of many of my students worked long hours and were constantly worried about their finances. It was draining them physically and emotionally. Consequently, I came to the conclusion that teachers could become pillars for their students in supporting the development of their unique abilities.

When I started teaching, I saw the beautiful faces of my students as if they were a part of a dynamic river. All I was worried about was delivering the curriculum at a pace that would allow my students to show progress in all subjects. It took me a while to realize that this amazing stream of energy was not necessarily one body. I needed to learn that not everybody had to be good at all subjects. More important was to see my students’ strengths, celebrate their interests, and nurture individual children by assigning enough time to specific activities and giving appropriate tools to develop their talents.

In a busy classroom, with the very strong demands placed on teachers to deliver the assigned curriculum, some children can give up on their interests. When I went back to painting, I finally felt at home. Let’s allow our students to feel the same.


Akiane and Foreli Kramarik, Akiane, Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry, Nelson Books, 2006, 2017

A Conversation with Akiane Kramarik and W. David O. Taylor, YouTube, January 16, 2024


Anna Nike Leskowsky
Anna Nike Leskowsky was a journalist in Poland. After immigrating to Canada in 1990, she worked as an elementary school teacher until she retired in 2018. Her articles and essays written in English have been published in Canadian Teacher Magazine, Canadian Art Therapy Association Online Magazine Envisage, Canadian Immigrant Magazine, The Toronto Star, and college textbooks. Anna lives in Toronto.

This article is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Spring 2024 issue.

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