Good News From Schools: Teachers honored by Georgia Art Education Association

Three Gwinnett County Public Schools fine arts teachers recently earned recognition from the Georgia Art Education Association for their commitment to their students' academic success and their professional attention to quality art education.

Debi West of North Gwinnett High, Loria Crews of Five Forks Middle and Aimée Burgamy of Trickum Middle brought home three of the 13 awards presented to teachers from around the state and to supporters of fine arts programs.

West was named the 2009 Georgia Art Educator of the Year. She now moves to compete for the Southeastern Art Educator of the Year title. In the past, West has been named the 1999 GAEA Elementary Level Art Educator of the Year, the 2001 Southeastern Art Educator of the Year and the 2005 National Elementary Art Educator of the Year.

"Being nominated for any award is so humbling ... I don't think it has sunk in yet that I actually won," West said. "They (the students) make me look good. I am amazed at their talent, their pure goodness and their desire to succeed. I will accept this award on behalf on my students and my children."

West joined Gwinnett County Public Schools 14 years ago as an art teacher at Sugar Hill Elementary. She later taught at Rockbridge Elementary for five years and helped open Level Creek Elementary as its art teacher before arriving at North Gwinnett High two years ago. The lead visual arts teacher at the Suwanee school teaches advanced drawing and painting classes and holds an educational specialist degree from the University of Georgia.

Crews was named the 2009 Middle Level Art Educator of the Year.

"I am simply flattered. In middle school, it is essential to provide students the artistic training, preparation and scholarship necessary to achieve excellence in the future," she said. "Art is vital in learning about today's cultural heritage and in educating and embracing diversity. It can bring every subject to life and turn abstractions into concrete reality. I believe a teacher can make a difference through the arts."

A Five Forks Middle Teacher of the Year in 2007, Crews has dedicated her entire teaching career to the Lawrenceville school since beginning her career there in the fall of 2001. She holds an educational specialist degree in educational leadership and administration from Lincoln Memorial University.

Burgamy won the 2009 Outstanding National Junior Art Honor Society Sponsor Award.

"I was thrilled to be recognized," Burgamy said. "Trickum's Junior National Art Honor Society (was) founded in 2007-08 ... (and) was very small but served as a leader for achievement in the arts and community service through art. We did many exciting and innovative projects last year, including a painted mural inspired by the work of Sol LeWitt and an outdoor mural in clay that promotes environmental awareness. I think the diversity and quality of projects we selected, given the small size of our club, is part of why I was selected as Outstanding JNAHS sponsor for Georgia this year."

A former curator of education for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Burgamy joined Trickum Middle in 2005, four years after joining the system. The former college professor is currently working on her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia.

The Gwinnett teachers will be recognized at the Awards Banquet at the 2008 GAEA Fall Professional Learning Conference, "Art for All," on Nov. 7 at the Classic Center in Athens.

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post. For more good news, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com Monday.