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Turner Art Teacher Wins Prestigious Pacific Region Award

 

February 20, 2019

2019 Pacific Region Art Educator of the Year. April Fox, who teaches art in Turner, will attend the National Art Education Association National Convention in Boston next month where she will receive her prestigious award.

Last October, outgoing Montana Art Education Association (MAEA) Teacher of the Year, Cortni Harant, crowned April Fox the Montana Art Teacher of the Year at a reception held at the Yellowstone Art Museum on October 17. Fox recently learned that she has also been selected as the 2019 Pacific Region Art Educator of the Year, an award that will be conferred at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) National Convention to be held in Boston at the John B. Hynes Veteran's Memorial Convention Center on March 14-16.

About the award, Fox said, "After winning the MAEA Teacher of the Year, I was nominated by my peers at the state level for the Pacific Region award, and when I heard I had won, I was both confused and surprised since there are so many able art educators."

Upon learning that Fox would be honored as the Pacific Region Art Educator of the Year, Harant, who teaches art at Great Falls High School and serves as the MAEA President said, "What an honor for April and for our state!"

Although Fox's teaching career began in cities in Minnesota and North Dakota, for the past eleven years, she has taught K-12 art and French in Turner, Montana. "During my time here, having the responsibility of providing the only opportunity in fine arts for students ages 5-18, has led me to reflect on what is most important for my students. I seek ways to connect the arts to their lives beyond the classroom," Fox stated.

"Over the years, I have incorporated into my art classes a variety of techniques from mindfulness to welding in order to show my students the value of creativity and creative problem-solving skills in nearly all aspects of their lives. I also strive to reach out to resources available beyond the classroom, whether that means traveling with students to museums, attending artist and student retreats, or bringing artists and artwork to them in person or via live-stream. I am so lucky to be able to guide my students in their creativity and exploration as well as to be their introduction to other facets of the world around them," Fox added.

Fox has maintained Artsonia portfolios for her art students since kindergarten, so now her seniors can see their growth over time. Through Artsonia, which calls itself the largest student art museum in the world, every child can keep an online art gallery and store their masterpieces in a digital portfolio.

Beyond the school, Fox has served as the MAEA Treasurer for the past four years, completing reports, filing the organization's taxes, and performing financial record keeping. In addition to her service to MAEA as treasurer, she has served on ad hoc committees and organized MAEA events.

"Part of April's ability to stay on top of her game is her tenacity in attending state and national events and staying connected with peers through relationships and professional development. In addition to her professionalism and connection to her art education peers, April is also an avid maker. She is never without her art journals. She lives her passion in her teaching and in her own making," MAEA President Harant said.

When asked what inspired her to become an art teacher, Fox replied: "In high school I had one art class. Because I lived in the rural community of Walhalla, North Dakota, the course was delivered through an interactive television system. I enjoyed that class and knew then that I had to make art available for students living in rural areas.

"I focus on the personal aspects of art, encouraging my students to think about ideas and opinions and to translate their thoughts and feelings into images. They also do a lot of art journaling, which gives them the opportunity to self-reflect," she added.

Fox, who lives in the Turner area, has been married to Brian Fox for over thirteen years. The couple has two children: Avery, age ten and Piper, age eight.

Because motherhood and teaching consume most of her daily schedule, Fox hasn't had much time for making art herself. "I really enjoy oil painting, but most of the art I make these days are models for my art students. However, I have also taught some adult education classes using silver clay and infused glass, and I have done a couple of Paint and Pour sessions in Turner," Fox explained.

During Paint and Pour sessions, art and entertainment comingle. With an artist as their guide, guests sip a glass of wine or beer as they create a featured painting over a given block of time, typically two hours.

This March, when Fox attends the NAEA National Convention-the largest gathering of visual arts education professionals in the world-she will have access not only to featured speakers but to hundreds of concurrent sessions presented by art education professionals from all over the world.

"This is my second NAEA conference," Fox said. "I attended in Seattle last year and enjoyed it immensely. I think part of the reason I love teaching is because I love learning. To be surrounded by thousands of people who also love to learn about and teach art creates such an incredible energy that I can bring back to my classroom," she added.

Besides acquiring the contagious energy of a National Convention, Fox is eager to attend sessions on techniques for including more critique and conversation about art in relation to current events and history. She is also looking forward to sessions that focus on art and mindfulness and the general well-being of students.

"I am really excited to see Peter H. Reynolds present. He is the author and illustrator of some of my absolute favorite books to use in the art room. Ish, The Dot, and Sky Color are all-time favorites that I read to the students at least once a year," Fox exclaimed.

2019 Pacific Region Art Educator of the Year April Fox.

Reynolds is a creativity champion, New York Times best-selling author, illustrator, and founder of FableVision, an award-winning educational multi-media company co-located at the Boston Children's Museum.

Another featured speaker at the NAEA Convention this year will be Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist, educator, and scholar. Gardner will present a session entitled "Beyond Wit and Grit" in which he will describe an educational framework that makes positive use of a person's wits and grit. To those in attendance, Gardner hopes to provide concrete suggestions about how to move toward a society that is both wise and caring.

"Gardner is such an icon in the education world, and I can't imagine having the opportunity to hear him speak and not taking advantage of any new ideas for tapping students' wit and grit," Fox said.

 
 

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