The Alaska Arts Education Consortium (AAEC), is pleased to announce the Champions of the Arts for 2016. The AAEC Champions of Arts 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. 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. Champions are nominated by a member of their community, and submissions are reviewed by the AAEC board. This is an annual award, recognizing 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 thanks all those who nominated a Champion of the Arts and celebrates all the nominees for their work in support of Alaska’s children and youth.

The AAEC Champions of the Arts for 2016 Are:

Nancy Lehnhart, Juneau | Arts Educator

Lehnhart is an advocate for art education at local, state & national levels: in Juneau School District as an elementary art teacher servicing all students, at the Juneau Basic Arts Institute as an instructor and the national level with the Kennedy Center Program – Any Given Child program.

Single-handedly, Lehnhart is working as the elementary art liason for JSD. She has been instrumental in obtaining a Kennedy Center – Any Given Child designation for JSD—for integrating arts in the schools to make sure there is equitable arts instruction for all students. One of her colleagues at JSD, Heather Ridgeway wrote, “I was fortunate to work alongside Nancy for 4 years as an Art Specialist for the Program she built, and I learned SO much from her. My favorite advice, heard in times of scowl-inducing stress, ‘You win more support with cookies.’”

Amanda (Mandy) Mallott, Juneau | Arts Advocate

Mandy works on multiple committees with multiple community nonprofits and agencies to bring about arts opportunities in many modalities for all ages of children. She worked to earn Juneau the Kennedy Center arts integration award.

Mandy champions art education for all ages throughout the entire community of Juneau. She finds ways to get community organizations to come together to collaborate their efforts in order to make a collective impact. She is relentless in her efforts. Her nominator, Amy Jo Meiners wrote, “No matter what is going on around her, Mandy’s focus is always on children first. Watch her at any community function and notice how attentive she is to the needs of all children in the room. Children – anyone’s children – come first with her. I’ve seen her work to bring good things to many schools and many organizations that her children aren’t even a part of…She’s reached children all across this community and enhanced their arts experience.”

 Bekah Mathiesen, Talkeetna | Arts Educator

Bekah practices her own art form in the trades of print making, painting, creating jewelry, and knitting. Living in a rural community fosters new levels of creativity personally and in the classroom with her theme this year being “Up-Cycling!”

Watching student growth over the years has been impactful. The current 2nd graders are now independent concentric circle weavers. They are also mindful of patterns, color schemes, and are able to articulate their thoughts on art and it’s principles. A letter of recommendation from the Talkeetna PTA Board described Bekah’s impact, “Teachers report cross-curricular connections they’ve observed from students having Bekah’s instruction in our school. She often includes Geography, Math and Engineering concepts and vocabulary that students are able to connect to other subjects. We know these students will receive benefits that last long after they’ve exited the classroom and we have our ‘Champion of Art,’ Bekah, to thank for that.”

Sonny Mauricio, Juneau | Arts Student

Sonny is a student at Thunder Mountain High School. He is a talented young man. Sonny is in Yearbook and Digital Arts class. Sonny is an amazing digital artist. His work has been recognized statewide and nationwide.

For three years in a row Sonny Mauricio has been the leader at Thunder Mountain High School in digital arts. He was the first one to use 3D technology in art and incorporate the augmented reality into the arts.

Robin Murphy, Eagle River | Arts Educator

An innovative advocate for the arts, this exemplary teacher demonstrates her commitment to educating students, teaching a life-long love of the arts, and mentoring her fellow educators. She recognizes the importance of personal artistic growth.

Robin magically merges art history and art production together to create the perfect learning environment. She generates the creative spark of interest through real life portrayals of famous artist in her classroom. Anchorage School District Fine Arts Coordinator, Mary Wilts, writes of Robin’s engaging practice as teacher in role, “Her students are then challenged to learn and create in the style of the artist. This is a meaningful learning experience for all. Most recently, she became Vincent Van Gogh and took a group of 5th and 6th graders to the Anchorage Museumimage3 for the ‘Van Gogh Alive!’ show dressed in full Van Gogh attire and answering questions and sharing information. An incredible learning experience her students certainly will not forget, this exceptional teaching method etches art and art history into her students’ lives.”


Charlie Skultka, Jr., Sitka | Arts Educator

Charlie maintains the values of his Haida culture; to honor, respect and uphold those who came before him and those who will follow him. He does this by working tirelessly to make cultural arts FUN for all students and staff in the Sitka School District.

Charlie recently worked with Baranof students to create a design for their drum. He demonstrated, encouraged, and guided students to create spectacular designs.

John Weemes, Unalakleet | Arts Leader

John Weemes has been a visionary and leader for arts education in BSSD for over ten years as a classroom teacher, principal, and district-level coordinator, supporting visual, industrial, cultural, and media arts in 15 different schools and communities.

In 2013, under John’s leadership, Koyuk hosted the Art & Science Fair-from traditional kayak-building demonstrations, to kinetic art chalk-spinners, to interactive engineering projects, to art installations lining the hallways, John fused creativity, community, and collaboration

John Weemes


Complete information about the Champions is available on the AAEC website at The Contact the Alaska Arts Education Consortium Executive Director Barbara Short at (907) 322-6669 or by email at with any questions, or for information about Champions of the Arts for next year.