Second Findley Teacher Earns Art Educator of the Year Honors

There’s no question about it: the art teachers at Findley Elementary School are among the best in Iowa. But don’t take our word for it. The Art Educators of Iowa have selected, from their peers across the state, not one but two Findley teachers as the outstanding art educators of the year.

First, Sarah Dougherty – who now teaches half-time as an Arts Integration Specialist at Findley and half-time as the Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools – was named the 2013 Outstanding Elementary Art Educator.

And Lisa Jorgensen has been named the 2013 Outstanding Middle School Art Educator. Lisa, who is in her first year of teaching at Findley, was a teacher at the Webster City Middle School.

Findley Elementary School has been a state and national leader in arts education. Findley was 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.

The following is a press release from the Art Educators of Iowa on Lisa’s selection:

Art Educators of Iowa (AEI) is pleased to announce that Lisa Jorgensen, former middle level art educator at Webster City Middle School will be honored as its 2013 Outstanding Middle Level Art Educator at the state art education conference on October 12, 2013, in Cedar Rapids.

Jorgensen’s dedication to art education is clear from the letters that were received in support of her nomination for the award. Ms. Jorgensen received particularly high praises from mentor Ronda Sternhagen, Webster City Middle School guidance counselor Patti LaSourd, and Webster City Middle School Educator Gary Scholtens.

“Ms. Jorgensen participated in my 6-12 grade art classroom as part of her field experience requirement for one of her art teaching methods courses at the University of Northern Iowa,” states Sternhagen. “Her interaction with students was immediate and she was able to form the teacher-student relationship very quickly. Ms. Jorgensen did not stop participating in my room when her required field experience ended. She continued to come back to work with my students voluntarily, as well as continue to track the students she had formed relationships with, even substituting in my classroom upon graduation.”

LaSourd commented that, “Lisa Jorgensen started her work at Webster City Middle School with some large shoes to fill. She joined us as our fifth through eighth grade art teacher after our previous art teacher retired from many years of teaching.” LaSourd continues, “For some, this may have been an overwhelming task. This was not the case for Lisa. She walked into our building with complete confidence, an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to listen and learn from the students and staff as well as any beginning teacher I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I also had the pleasure of working in the classroom next to Lisa as a guidance counselor and teacher so was able to see her in action on a daily basis.”

“While the qualities that she represents hold true for many educators, Lisa multiplies those qualities manifold. Her dedication to the students, staff, local community, state/national art education, and to the art form itself are outstanding,” added Scholtens.

Jorgensen reflected upon the receiving word of the award, “My biggest passion in life is art education. Since I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher. In college, it was clear that I thrived off of helping students gain perspective in the creative capacity.

Within the first year of teaching I knew I fit well in the role of “art teacher.” Helping students gain even the smallest perspective surrounding an appreciation for the arts or their creativity is the most rewarding feeling in the world. And especially at the middle level, students really have the opportunity to expand in every direction – my goal was to make that opportunity as big as possible. I strongly believe that art allows individuals to come “into their own” and develop a sense of self…beyond that, art education supplies a great foundation of problem solving skills, creative thinking, and confidence building. No student should be without this. No matter what level I teach at, students walk into my classroom and will, without a doubt, succeed in what they are doing. I am so thankful for the support I have found in Art Educators of Iowa and am beyond thrilled about accepting the award for Middle Level Art Educator of the Year.”

In addition to responsibilities in the classroom, Ms. Jorgensen is the Communications Chair for Art Educators of Iowa and serves as editor for both the AEI newsletter, “The Message” and the NAEA Middle Level newsletter. It is easy to sense that Jorgensen is a well respected leader in the art classroom and beyond.