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Teachers earn top honors from Georgia Art Education Association

Two Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers recently were honored by the Georgia Art Education Association for the contributions they both have made to the field of fine arts education.

Lauren Phillips, an art teacher at Nesbit Elementary, and Dallas Gillespie, an art teacher at Osborne Middle, were selected as Georgia’s top fine arts educators at their respective levels.

Phillips was chosen as the 2010 Georgia Art Education Association Elementary Level Art Educator of the Year. Phillips, who joined Gwinnett in 1999, is in her first year at Nesbit Elementary. She dedicated her first 11 years educating students at Norcross Elementary.

Gillespie was selected as the 2010 Georgia Art Education Association Middle Level Art Educator of the Year. Gillespie started his career with the school system in 2003 as an art teacher at Dacula Middle. In 2004, he became part of the inaugural staff at Osborne. In addition to teaching art, Gillespie works with eighth-grade students on the school’s annual yearbook.

Robert Andrews, the school system’s director of fine arts, cites this recognition as evidence of the impact visual art teachers have on students.

“Our teachers provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students, giving them a creative and competitive edge,” he said. “Art education allows students to develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, imagination and creativity, discipline, and cross-cultural understanding, all of which supports academic success across the curriculum. Art helps students to form mental images which can be used to solve problems. This helps them today and into the future as this ability is needed for success in school and is used by chemists, engineers and architects to create models and by inventors who think up new ideas.”

Andrews said Gwinnett’s fine arts teachers are known to be some of the most forward thinking and innovative art specialists in the country, causing them to be in demand as keynote speakers and presenters at state and national conferences.

Duluth High students earn top national finishes in Geography Challenge

Two Duluth High students were declared the national champions during the National Geography Challenge. Additionally, the school’s ninth-grade team finished second in the nation.

Jason Yu, who is now a sophomore, was recognized as the Ninth Grade National Champion, while Samuel Aziz, an 11th-grader, earned the Grades 10 to 12 National Champion title.

The school’s ninth-grade team included Dennis Chen, Brandon Chiem, Bryam Duque, Nolan Graham, John Kaffezakis, Jonathan Li, Richard Lu, Atanas Manasier, Cameron Niakan, Abraham Quintero, Molly Rea and Yu.

The event, held each spring, is sponsored by the National Council for Geography Education. In two categories at the secondary level — grades 7 to 9 and 10 to 12 — students have 35 minutes to address 50 questions.

The winning students were recognized earlier this school year by the Gwinnett County Board of Education.

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.