To most people, doing what is expected of them is good enough. For Ann Simpson, going above and beyond is her norm. Whether teaching art at Evergreen Middle School, sculpting, painting, traveling, or being a wife and mom, Ann manages to put that extra touch into everything she does.
She grew up in Denver and graduated from George Washington High School. “Home of Chauncy Billups,” she laughed. “That’s what we’re known for!” What she’s known for is far richer than having celebrity.
Ann traveled to France for an academic year and was “one of the first Americans to be allowed into the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, France,” where she experienced her first traditional drawing class and studied art history. “I wrote a paper on the Impressionists in French,” she said, rolling her eyes. “We needed certain proficiency in order to be in the program. We stayed in homes, so that helped me improve my French, and a group of Americans who I hung out with agreed that we would only speak in French.” But for Ann, that wasn’t good enough.
“Every night I would learn ten new French words; my mind was spinning.” To this day she is a true advocate of ‘going to’ a language and learning it by using it. “I lived in a family with a doctor and an art teacher. They exposed me to art, wine – they really influenced my life. I loved living there. I wouldn’t have come home except that I had already met Rob,” she smiled.
They married after their senior year. “We lived in Boulder where I worked as a sign maker for Liquor Mart,” she said. “Back then we only had hand-made signs.” Typical of Ann, she made her signs a little extra special. “I had these little signs that I turned into mobiles that hung above the products.” She shrugged, smiled and said, “They were fun!”
When her husband decided to study in Phoenix, Ann did substitute teaching. “I hated it,” she laughed. “I just knew that I never wanted to teach ever again in my life. It was a really hard job, but then I realized that because I was the new kid on the block, they were giving me the worst schools.” She went on to see the irony that, “When I was in high school we were supposed to take home economics. I got permission to opt out. Wouldn’t you know it, the first substitute job I had was for home economics.”
They moved to Hillsborough, New Jersey where they lived for twelve years. Ann worked in commercial art as the Advertising Director for a small advertising agency, but as she so often does, she took on more roles, “I was the photographer, writer, graphic designer – I kind of did it all,” she admitted.
In 1983 their son Evan was born, and Ryan followed in 1985. Ann chose to stay home. “We lived in this great Italian neighborhood where everyone took care of each other. It was a great place to start a family.” Despite having the challenges and stress of being a full-time mom, Ann took on some freelance jobs in advertising.
They moved back to Colorado in 1990. Two years later their only native Coloradoan, their third son Kellan, was born. They thought, “this is a better place to raise our kids.” After settling in to living in Evergreen Ann worked for seven years at Montessori School of Evergreen, and since 2001 she has been Evergreen Middle School’s art teacher.
It’s well known that today’s public school teachers are stretched thin with county, state and federal requirements, but that doesn’t stop this woman (who at one time thought she hated teaching) from offering her students opportunities that only she provides. “I have four curriculum, six classes and a year-long 8th grade class.” She smiled and said, “It’s worth the extra work when I see students really connect with a project.” Over the years Ann has led her 8th grade students to leave legacy projects that include two murals (currently on display at Center for the Arts Evergreen), a four-piece wall mural in front of EMS, a life-sized metal tree that displayed individual tile pieces, pedestals that grace the EMS lobby, and this year a glass pyramid (on display at the Lakewood Cultural Center through May 1). Ann has brought guest artists into the classroom, including local artists David and Danna Cuin, in order to expand her students’ experiences.
With plenty on her plate, Ann doesn’t neglect her own talent. Since 1998 she has met regularly with a sculpting group. She continues to expand her expertise in watercolor painting and is a Signature Member of the Colorado Watercolor Show. In addition, she is a member of the Evergreen Artists Association and opens her studio through Open Door Studio Tours each September. She has taken classes and worked in clay and acrylic, “because I think it’s important for me to know as many mediums of art that I can.” Her sculpture can be enjoyed at the Jefferson County Teachers Exhibit at the Lakewood Cultural Center from April 6 – 29.
Ann’s love of travel continues. Last year, despite breaking her toe on one of the first days of her trip, she forged on for the entire planned trip. “I hiked the Cinque Terra in my stupid sandals because I couldn’t put my hiking boots on.” She shrugged and laughed and said, “I wasn’t going to miss it!” There’s not much that Ann misses; she’s just like that.