A Blue Valley teacher recently earned statewide recognition for her efforts in boosting the local arts community.
Driving the news: Polly Blair, a visual arts teacher at Wolf Springs Elementary, was named the 2022-23 Outstanding Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Kansas Art Education Association, the largest organization of art teachers in the state.
- The award recognizes contributions an individual educator has made that have “significantly enhanced art education in their community,” according to the organization’s website.
Why it matters: At a time when teacher turnover, both in Blue Valley and across the U.S., is going up, Blair says she’s happy with what she’s doing and has no plans to leave the classroom.
Key quote: “As an elementary art teacher, what I get the most reward out of is helping kids think creatively. It’s one of those 21st Century skills that industries are looking for,” Blair said. “Art is not just about being able to mix colors or make a beautiful clay piece, but trying to solve problems.”
Backstory: Blair first began her career as an art teacher six years ago when Wolf Springs first opened.
- She came to education mid-career, after working as an editor at a Kansas City publishing company for nearly a decade and then went back to school nine years ago to get her graduate licensure in art education at the University of Kansas.
- She then worked at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art as a museum educator for eight years before becoming an elementary teacher.
- “I had always wanted to be a teacher, and I have just loved it ever since,” Blair said. “I think the path that I took to get here has made me kind of a better teacher.”
Zooming out: Blair has tried to have an impact beyond her classroom and school by taking on several leadership roles in the district around art instruction.
- That includes writing the curriculum for the district’s art teachers when students were doing online learning at home during the most disruptive days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For four years, Blair also helped plan and implement the professional learning for all of Blue Valley’s elementary art teachers.
- “It was kind of a challenge because there isn’t much of a budget, so we were trying to always find things that were relevant and helpful to our teachers,” she said.
What’s next for Blair
Blair said she looks forward to continuing her career as an art educator and helping influence young minds to become creative thinkers.
- She said despite a lot of attrition among teachers both locally and across the U.S., she is happy where she is at in her role at Wolf Springs Elementary.