LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Thea Foundation is a longtime supporter of the arts in the classroom. Director Paul Leopoulos saw the dramatic effects of art and drama on his daughter, Thea. Now, he spends his time helping students like her.
Thea Foundation sits on the corner of 4th and Main in North Little Rock. Leopoulos named it after his daughter. A daughter teachers called average. A daughter who struggled with anything math-related. A daughter teachers said wasn't good enough for gifted and talented programs. A daughter who died after her junior year in high school, but not before proving them wrong.
"Thea's foot is in my back, saying 'move forward, keep going, keep going," says Leopoulos.
That's just what he's doing, as he helps kids in classrooms in a way he didn't even realize existed before his teenage daughter taught him.
"The day after we lost her, her trig teacher called us to let us know she had an A in trig. Everyone knew she struggled and it was that, that pushed me to wonder what happened," says Leopoulos.
Thea found a way to succeed and her father says it didn't come from hiring a tutor. It came from signing up for art classes.
"She learned to believe in herself, she learned she could be smart, she learned she could do the courses. Everything changed in her life just by her participation in those activities," he says.
Not only did her grades sky-rocket, so did Thea's confidence. Now, in her honor, the Thea Foundation is training teachers to teach using the A+ model.
The model aims to teach students of all learning types. It focuses on challenging students ahead in their studies and catching those up who are behind. It also uses art in all subjects, and Leopoulos says that's what made all the difference for his daughter, Thea.
He says, "I'm just so honored to be able to represent her and what she taught us about children and motivation."
By next month, he says there will be 13 A+ certified schools in Arkansas. Right now, only two other states have the model- North Carolina and Oklahoma.