AAEC Champions of the Arts
The Alaska Arts Education Consortium (AAEC) Champions of Arts in Education Award was created as a way to formally recognize and honor individuals or organizations from around the State of Alaska who “champion” the arts in education. The AAEC board of trustees considers this award to be a celebratory action, aimed at highlighting the positive impact of the arts on the lives of our children and youth. The efforts of these “champions” in teaching and supporting arts across the curriculum reflects the mission of AAEC, which is “to promote learning in and through the arts for all Alaska students.”
AAEC believes that Champions of Arts in Education carry the torch for arts education through high-caliber instruction, arts support, and ongoing arts promotion. Besides being a wonderful, fun experience for students, the lasting impacts on these kids include becoming more effective communicators and responsible, contributing citizens. AAEC is an affiliation of school districts, diverse organizations, and dedicated individuals committed to preparing and supporting Alaska’s educators so that they can teach the arts across the curriculum.
Nancy Douglas is a Tlingit culture bearer and a natural leader. She has been a teacher working with students, families and within communities since 1986.
Nancy always integrates traditional ways of life into her work and shares her belief in education and love for the culture with students and educators throughout the region and Alaska. She is recognized for her impact on curriculum, language and literacy throughout Southeast Alaska and beyond. Nancy continues to work to provide context to the content standards and embed habits of mind regarding the value of collaboration, creativity, and community in our lives. The value of education is something Nancy shares with all she comes in contact with, and her love for the culture and children has guided her to her lifetime of teaching.
Heidi Wright has been a long time employee of Yukon Koyukuk School District, and through her many roles has inspired students and colleagues alike. Over the last 25+ years, she has served as a teacher’s aide, K-12 principal/teacher, and most currently Raven Correspondence School advisory & special education teacher. No matter her position, she has always gone above and beyond to use the arts to teach her students. Her activities and projects ensure that every student receive an enriching learning experience at school. She gives freely of her time and encourages others to broaden the definition of education to include creativity and the arts. She cares for each one of her students and finds extraordinary ways to keep them engaged and excited about learning.
Cori Anthony of Fairbanks is the Vice Principal at Randy Smith Middle School, as well as the President of the Board of the Fairbanks Concert Association and a member of the Fairbanks Art and Culture in Education Committee. As a teacher, she made sure her students had exposure to the arts, as a Vice Principal, she continues to ensure that her schools have professional touring artists who work directly with the students, and in her community roles, she has expanded her reach to bring the arts to underserved communities.
Roy Stone of Palmer is an art instructor at Colony Middle School. Described as a true artist, she introduces her students to a variety of media and is always willing to help other art programs, not only in the school, but the district. She teaches district courses, and one of her most recent projects was to produce and film the Mat-Su district’s opening day video that featured student and staff interviews in every single school.
The third Champion is Jennifer Bradley of Bethel who is an art teacher at Bethel Regional High School. Her classes are robust and rigorous and her students express themselves while learning key concepts. Her students’ work is displayed throughout the school, creating a welcoming and inclusive climate for all, and her classroom is a positive lively environment where students are motivated to learn.
Kirk Garbisch has had a tremendous impact on arts education in Wrangell as well as Southeast Alaska as the high school art teacher since 1982. During this time he provided the students of Wrangell with opportunities to develop and show their arts. With technology becoming more important in other aspects of their lives Kirk also looked for ways to combine technology and the arts.
Through a grant, Kirk was able to also come into the elementary classrooms to work with teachers and their students to learn new art techniques. This became an outstanding professional development opportunity for all the elementary teachers.
The impact Kirk has made for Wrangell and Southeast Alaska is tied to his founding of the Arts Fest, an opportunity for students to share their art with people outside of the island. The Art Fest grew and about 6 years ago the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) for Region 5 incorporated it under their umbrella so that Art Fest is now a shared event in Southeast. One of the criteria set for art teachers who come to Art Fest is to take a class and to teach a class. This has become a wonderful professional development opportunity for art teachers in Southeast.
Kirk also worked with the Indian Education Act (IEA) employee at the high school to provide funds to support students of Native descent work with Native cultural arts. Some of these students were in danger of failing at school and Kirk and this opportunity helped them to be successful in school.
As an artist and teacher, Kirk is a man who understands that having a quality forum for self-expression is a vital component in students’ lives. He has provided that opportunity for his students as well as his colleagues and has left a legacy that will continue.
John Sinnok is AAEC’s Champion of the Arts from the Arctic Region. John’s students have entered carvings and sewing in the Heard Museum All Native Student Art and Sale arts show in Phoenix, Arizona every year for the last 10 years and his students consistently win 26 to 30 ribbons, sell their artwork, and come home with prize money and awards for the excellence and beauty of their work. They may be the only students representing Alaska at this great event, which takes place each April. Many of John’s students subsequently receive $1000 scholarships, renewable with high enough GPAs, from the Heard Museum when they seek continuing education after high school. Several students from his classes have been selected among the top ten artists in the art show and have been invited to attend one-week art classes at Arizona State University with all expenses paid except travel.
John expresses his view of the impact of his program on the arts in education in Alaska when he states that students’ self esteem improves through their success with their artwork, and it transfers to a higher success rate in all other subjects. John faces challenges to his program as his classes are given low priority against No Child Left Behind mandates that force students into other classes other than trades or arts. John himself has been invited to a gallery in Chicago—the first Alaska Native to be invited—to demonstrate and show his work, but he declined. He doesn’t want to be away from teaching his students. His dedication, resourcefulness, selflessness and consummate ability as both an instructor and artist are clear. John sets a high bar for the quality of work he expects from his students, and he has sustained his program at the Shishmaref School for over 40 years.
A significant number of residents in the community of Shishmaref make and sell crafts as a result of John’s instruction at the school. Shishmaref is recognized as a village that produces the highest quality crafts and still carries on the traditional Inupiat lifestyle. Their development as artists over time allows them to contribute to their artistic cultural heritage. This past year John was recognized by the Traditional Native Council, the IRA Council, for his work in contributing to the carrying on of the culture through his work at the school and in the community. This humble champion has accomplished all those things while being legally blind from a snow machine accident in 1985.
A second Champion on the Arts comes from the Kenai Peninsula. Elaine Larson is a music, movement and drama specialist in the Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, a K-6 public charter school, which she helped to found in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD). Her special interest is in working with classroom teachers in the area of integrated curriculum. Elaine teaches her students based on the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education, and she collaborates weekly with each of her school’s classroom teachers in order to deliver the curriculum in an integrated way.
In 2011, Elaine made a successful proposal to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, which allowed her to offer a Level I Orff Schulwerk training course to all borough music teachers. This course was so successful that a level II training has been approved for the summer of 2013. Elaine has taught music for over 30 years and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education. She is the co-author of a book, Weaving the Strands ofLiteracy: Birds, and the 1998 recipient of the Alaska Outstanding Music Educator award.
Hundreds of KPBSD students benefit as a result of the Elaine’s Orff Schulwerk training for their music teachers. Through the Orff method, the teachers learn to guide their students to experience music through speech, singing, movement, playing instruments, listening and improvising. These activities, in turn, help students learn to create, understand and enjoy their musical experiences, fostering a lifelong love of music and the arts.