The Alaska Arts Education Consortium is pleased to recognize individuals and organizations from across the state who champion the arts in education. AAEC believes these Champions carry the torch for arts education through high-caliber instruction, arts support, and ongoing arts promotion.
This award is 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.” Each Champion was nominated by Alaskans who—like the AAEC—believe in the work of these Champions of Arts in Education to positively impact the lives of students and communities.
2022 AAEC Student Champion
Rampart School, Yukon-Koyukuk School District
Chase L. Jimmie is in his senior year at Rampart School. His work in literary arts exhibits a strong bond to the stories, language, and traditions of his culture and community.
Nominator Al Sokaitis praises the young artist’s dedication to uplifting others. “Chase’s pride in his culture, his studies and the way he treats others serve as a tremendous inspiration to young students who hope to one day be the leader Chase is today.”
The award’s selection panel was particularly impressed by the vibrant connection to community evident in Jimmie’s poem “I Am.” In describing the piece Sokaitis notes, “Chase wrote an amazing poem describing who he is as a person. The poem was made into a poster and is displayed throughout the village. Every person in Rampart can now read about Chase’s life and his reverence for elders and family members who helped form who he is and the pride he has in the community that raised him. His poem is a wonderful inspiration in a time of high stress for many.”
Chase, son of Michelle James, grew up in Manley Hot Springs and Rampart. His family, both of Manley/Rampart and Minto, instilled in Chase a connection to the land and people. He intersperses phrases in Denaakk’e (Koyukon Athabascan) in his poem “I Am.” Chase wrote about how knowing one’s culture through language and song instills a strong self-identity.
Yukon-Koyukuk School District recognized Chase on March 10, 2022 at the 2022 Student and Staff Celebration.
As the Arts Student Champion, Chase Jimmie has a featured display space within the Alaska’s Heart through Student Art Show and receives a scholarship from proceeds of the event’s art auction.
2022 AAEC Educator Champion
Klawock City School District
Jon Rowan has worked in Klawock Schools for 30 years, teaching Northwest Coast Arts to every student within the community. A master carver, Rowan has created an exemplary arts program which supports students in building knowledge of Tlingit culture through a variety of visual art media.
In nominating Rowan, Superintendent Jim Holien praises Rowan’s dedication to students while nurturing Klawock’s Northwest Coast Arts program. “He started his Native Arts program from scratch and had very limited resources when he began working with Klawock School students years ago. Today, he has one of the best Northwest Coast Arts programs around and his classroom is well stocked and equipped. Jon’s program focuses on Northwest Coast Arts across various forms of art. Students in his classes will be drawing, beading, carving, and engraving depending upon what age they are or class they are in. In addition to learning these various art forms, students are exposed to local history and the local Tlingit culture is kept alive and relevant in his classroom. Jon is a talented master carver which is obvious when you see his work. Above the school is Totem Park and he has carved every pole in this park. In addition to his skill as an artist, Jon is a skilled educator. He gives our students the skills needed to be successful in the art form, but also allows them space which develops their creativity. Jon’s knowledge of Northwest Coastal Arts is vast and this knowledge, along with his constant desire to learn more about it, keeps this alive and well in our community in addition to across the state.”
As the Arts Educator Champion, Jon Rowan receives complimentary attendance at one of AAEC’s Summer Arts Institutes.
2022 AAEC Arts Leader Champion
Juneau School District
Amy Rautiainen is the coordinator of the Artful Teaching project, a partnership of Juneau School District, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, and University of Alaska Southeast. Through Artful Teaching, Rautiainen works with JSD teachers, administrators, and preservice educators to engage all learners by teaching in and through the arts and local culture. With the program since 2015, Rautiainen regularly supports over 100 educators annually in growing an arts-integrated, culturally-responsive approach to their work with Juneau students.
This transformative support of teachers is highlighted by Katy Ritter, a teacher at Sayeik: Gastineau School who nominated Rautiainen. “My involvement in the Artful Teaching project has completely transformed my teaching practice. Amy brings the arts integration experience alive and is a constant voice throughout the school year, inviting me to engage more deeply with arts integration, or asking me to reflect on my recent experiences with my students and colleagues. I am completely indebted to her consistent support throughout my professional career, and I can think of no one who is more deserving of this honor and recognition.”
Throughout Rautiainen’s time with the Artful Teaching program, hundreds of educators such as Ritter have participated in arts-rich opportunities. Nancy Lehnhart, Juneau School District’s K-5 Art Specialist, praises the multitude of enriching support Rautiainen has provided for the capital city’s teachers. “Amy has a fierce commitment to teachers, she believes in their brilliance and their capacity and their dedication to their work and their students. She designs every workshop and every communication with teachers’ best interest in mind. She trusts that when they are well supported, students will be too. And that when teachers have high quality arts experiences, profound encounters with culture bearers, and artfully facilitated training and workshops, it will translate to deeper and richer arts experiences for their students.”
Molly Yerkes, Principal of D’zantik’i Heen’i Middle School, notes the impact of Rautiainen’s efforts with teachers on the students in her building. “I have seen the artful teaching strategies she has fostered drastically improve attendance and student’s enjoyment of learning. Students experience academic and personal success due to her professional support of so many teachers. Ms. Rautiainen is very much a change maker for the arts, students, teachers, administrators, and artists.”
2022 AAEC Advocate Champion
Kodiak Island Borough School District & Kodiak Arts Council
Bonnie Dillard is a longtime arts educator in the Kodiak Island community. Since retiring from Kodiak High School, she continues to connect with youth through artist residencies, after school Art Clubs, and volunteer art lessons. A skilled visual artist, Dillard also offers art classes for adults, and is helping to mentor upcoming Teaching Artists who can expand arts education within Kodiak schools.
Nominator Peggy Azuyak, Principal of KIBSD Rural Schools, was once a student in Mrs. Dillard’s Art class at Kodiak High School. Azuyak remembers how Dillard worked with students and community members to create art installations outside of Fisherman’s Hall. Citing how Dillard’s instruction fostered her creativity and confidence, Azuyak praised Dillard’s continued passion for arts education even in her retirement. “Once retired, Mrs. Dillard did not withdraw from arts education, she joined the Munartet project which is a partnership between KIBSD, the Kodiak Arts Council, Kodiak College, and the Alutiiq Museum. Since its inception in 2015, she has served as a Teaching Artist in schools- including providing virtual arts lessons to our rural students around the island. Bonnie’s passion is bringing attention to the beauty of the natural world, and this is found in her own art pieces and the lessons that she brings to the students. She values the capacity of the arts to develop confidence, compassion, and coping skills to young people. She also understands the importance of integrating arts with content to help promote learning and retention.”
Fellow nominator JoAnne Knight, the Arts & Culture Coordinator of the Munartet Project, echoes this praise for Dillard. “Bonnie is an amazing artist herself, which may be intimidating to some, but her way of bringing the artist out of the people in her classes is inspiring. She is a master of growing artists through her deep knowledge and respectful and effective teaching methods. She builds confidence and competence in those with whom she works. She is gracious and empowering.”
A presentation of Bonnie Dillard’s award was made during a joint KIBSD Board of Education and Kodiak Island Borough Assembly work session on March 24, 2022.
With enthusiastic dedication to making the arts accessible throughout Kodiak Island and compassionate commitment to the empowerment of students through arts, Bonnie Dillard is a champion Arts Advocate!
The Champions were recognized in Juneau on March 29, 2022, at the Alaska’s Heart through Student Art reception, an annual event held in partnership by the Alaska Council of School Administrators, the Alaska Arts Education Consortium and GCI Education.