Shared from the 12/21/2017 Texarkana  eEdition

TEXAS SIDE | EDUCATION

PG art teacher earns state recognition

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Staff photo by Kayleigh Moreland

• Art teacher Nicole Brisco smiles on stage alongside state Rep. Gary VanDeaver after being awarded a plaque Wednesday at the Pleasant Grove High School cafeteria. A holiday luncheon was held to recognize Brisco for winning a Texas Humanities Award.

She’s been called outstanding, inspirational and life-changing during her 19 years as art teacher at Pleasant Grove High School.

On Wednesday, she was called a superstar.

Nicole Brisco received Humanities Texas’ 2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award in a ceremony attended by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, who not only called her a star, but also said she was preparing students for their next steps in life.

“To say that Mrs. Brisco teaches art really misses the point, because Mrs. Brisco doesn’t simply teach art,” the state legislator said. “She inspires students, and she equips students for the future.”

Brisco is one of 17 teachers statewide to receive the award, which is given to those who have made exemplary contributions in teaching, curriculum development and extracurricular programming. More than 700 teachers were nominated for the 2017 awards.

“She inspires students, and she equips students for the future.”

VanDeaver, a former superintendent at New Boston Independent School District, said in his two sessions in the Legislature, his colleagues have expressed concern about the state of education in Texas.

“I hear them lament on how we are graduating students who are trained in technology but do not know how to think,” he said. “I think we are graduating students who could benefit from being better thinkers and able to think critically. I get frustrated too when I hear those same colleagues say the solution to that problem is to cut arts and humanities. I think that is just the polar opposite of what we need to do for our students to become thinkers.”

He said since much of what is taught in classrooms today is formulaic, the humanities are important to nurture critical thinking.

“It’s been said that the value of the humanities is more often in the questions posed than in the answers found,” he said. “Humanities study is not formulaic, and I think that’s great.”

PGISD Superintendent Dr. Jason Smith said Brisco was instrumental in working with the district’s leadership team to develop the science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum for the 2017-18 school year.

“We were working with the leadership team on how to bring more rigor to the classroom and bring about 21st-century learning skills but not lose our identity,” he said. “We came up with the idea of STEAM. There is no way we can move forward with who we are without incorporating the arts, because arts is who we are. And arts is what really identifies PG as a very special and unique place. There’s so many things we do at PG that are just excellent, and I am just so impressed with the creativity and innovation of our students.”

He referenced art hanging in school hallways to highlight the influence Brisco has districtwide.

“It’s amazing to me to see the impact one teacher has on so many different students,” he said. “Not only students, but us as professionals and also our community.”

Brisco addressed those gathered at the holiday luncheon, saying that although she’s presented hundreds of times to art educators, she had never spoken directly to her peers at PG.

“The system in which education is currently set up only allows for strict boundaries between disciplines, ensuring that students know each subject singularly but not necessarily knowing how it relates to the whole,” she said. “The arts and humanities explore, share and recreate expressions of the human experience and do just the opposite. They blur the lines and bring life to knowledge. They are seen, heard and felt.”

She described her art room as more of a laboratory where students could plan, explore, fail, reconsider and solve problems.

“There is never one answer to an artistic problem but an unlimited amount of solutions,” she said. “My job is to teach students how to discern and find answers that no one else could, and not allow them to quit in the process when it becomes difficult.”

Sam Moore, program officer with Humanities Texas, presented Brisco with a $5,000 monetary award.

“To be one of the 17 to receive the award, you can’t just be a qualified teacher, you have to be outstanding,” said Moore, who also presented the district with a $500 check for its arts program. “It was very clear to me by Mrs. Brisco’s application that was the case. She has been inspiring and challenging her students for 20 years now, and that’s an incredible feat.

“It’s our privilege to get to honor outstanding teachers like Nicole. Too often, the efforts of teachers are taken for granted or overlooked, and I’m so glad it’s a part of what we do to take a moment and thank them for their hard work.”

This is not the only award Brisco is receiving this year. She will also travel to Seattle in March to receive the National High School Art Educator of the Year award from the National Art Education Association.

“It’s based on impact on a national level with art educators,” Brisco said. “It’s something I’ve worked for many years to achieve.”

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