Findley Teacher Named 2013 Outstanding Elementary Art Educator

Sarah Dougherty, an art educator at Findley Elementary School in Des Moines, has been named by the Art Educators of Iowa (AEI) as its 2013 Outstanding Elementary Art Educator. She will be honored at the state art education conference on October 12, 2013, in Cedar Rapids.

For the 2013-14 school year, Dougherty works half-time as an Arts Integration Specialist at Findley Elementary School and half-time as the Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools.

Dougherty’s dedication to art education is clear from the letters that were received in support of her nomination for the award. Ms. Dougherty received particularly high praises from cooperating student teacher Wendy Miller, Findley principal Tara Owen, and Jessica Balsley, founder of the Art of Education.

“Sarah came to me as a student teacher seven years ago. She jumped in on day one and demonstrated the unique abilities needed to be an outstanding elementary art teacher, that generally only veteran teachers show,” commented Miller. “Sarah’s enthusiasm, ease, wonderful humor, and love of small children made her irresistible to my students immediately. During her time with me, we developed an large, interdisciplinary celebration of the Day of the Dead at my elementary school, involving all teachers, students, parents, and community. It was an amazing event, enriching our school community with a focus in the arts and culture.”

Owen commends Dougherty’s leadership: “Sarah’s work goes well beyond her classroom. She has impacted our district’s teachers by leading the visual arts PLC and causing teachers to dig deeper into assessing student’s work and critiquing if the inputs coming from our district’s visual arts teachers are matching and/or exceeding the expected student outputs.” She goes on to say that, “Sarah sees the value of the arts standing in isolation, but also is committed to integrating the arts into the core content areas in the general classroom. She extends her knowledge, enthusiasm, and instructional ability by collaborating with all teachers to intentionally combine the art’s standards with the Common Core State Standards. In result of her actions, students not only receive a highly rich arts experience in her classroom, but also in their core content classrooms. She is empowering all of our teachers to see the power behind the arts when integrated with content standards.”

“As a consultant with Sarah’s school district, she and I worked together to develop and implement quality professional development to the art educators on her team,” commented Balsley. “I was so impressed with Sarah’s leadership abilities and talent in the field, I soon invited her to join my team of writers for The Art of Education’s online magazine. I have also had the privilege of being a graduate instructor for courses Sarah has taken, and have found her to be not only an engaging leader, but also a thoughtful and reflective student.”

Dougherty reflected upon the receiving word of the award: “I am incredibly honored to be recognized with this award from the Art Educators of Iowa! It is an incredible feeling to know that the important work we do in schools every single day is valued. I am truly thankful that I have been taught and supported by so many outstanding educators and institutions in the state of Iowa. There are few things that I am more passionate about than helping students find success in and through the arts. Being noticed for the work I am most passionate about is thrilling!”

Findley Elementary School has been selected to participate in a new arts education initiative to help turn around low-performing schools, developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council. The Turnaround Arts initiative is a new public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and improve student engagement through the arts. Findley was chosen to be one of eight schools featured in the program through a highly competitive national selection process, and will receive intensive arts education resources, expertise and the involvement of high-profile President’s Committee artists over the course of two years to support their educational reform effort. Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker has been working with Findley for the past year, thanks to the TurnAround Arts initiative.