2017-10-12 / Front Page

National art group salutes Mercer teacher for second year in a row


The Sydney Opera House by Lilly Roman, grade 8. The Sydney Opera House by Lilly Roman, grade 8. MERCER — Each year, Celebrating Art recognizes art teachers from across the nation who have artwork by 15 or more students selected to be published in the company’s anthology.

In the most recent edition of Celebrating Art, Stephanie Martin gave the judges not just 15, but 37 reasons to recognize the art program at Mercer Area High School.

For the second year in a row, Martin has been named a Teacher of Distinction by the organization, one of just 15 other teachers to receive the recognition nationwide — an honor she says she credits to each of the 37 students whose artwork was selected.

“Most of these other schools are specialized art schools or art academies,” Martin said of the other districts showcased in Celebrating Art’s most recent anthology. “I’m so excited, but I’m more excited for the students than I am for myself. I’m excited for them to be recognized, and for the school to be recognized — it’s more than just me here.

A seahorse by Annie Miller, grade 12. A seahorse by Annie Miller, grade 12. “We’re just as good as any art academy, and we can go up against them and show that our skills are on the same level,” she added.

The 2016-17 school year was the second year Martin submitted student artwork to the competition, with 25 Mercer students being selected the first year.

Students enrolled in art classes from eighth through 12th grade are eligible to have artwork submitted.

This marks Martin’s fourth year as the art teacher at Mercer, and in her time with the district, high school Principal Michael Piddington said she has transformed the department.

“Ms. Martin has done an outstanding job of growing our art program at the middle-high school since she joined our staff,” he said. “She has re-shaped the course offerings within the department, adding different levels of both studio and fine art, and introducing a functional pottery class and fundamentals of drawing class.”

A lighthouse by Jayme Heffern, grade 8. A lighthouse by Jayme Heffern, grade 8. These changes, Piddington said, have not only increased enrollment, but have also lead to the “revival” of the school’s art club.

For Martin, the art classes she teaches are just as important to a student’s education as any other core subject.

“Art can be the one time that a kid feels safe, or has a place to express themselves,” she said. “Maybe they aren’t good at math, and they’re really stressed about that, and then they come in here, and they have a chance to make something.

“We have all walks of life in this room, and they’re all sitting side by side, creating something together.”

Martin Martin Whether it’s a piece of their work that is chosen for a publication like Celebrating Art, or it’s a project being displayed in the hallway showcase, Martin said the sense of accomplishment her students feel is the same.

“There is a lot of time spent on phones and in front of computers in other classrooms, as well as outside of school, and in an art room, they’re actually sitting down and making something for themselves,” she said. “It builds confidence, and there’s a sense of pride in looking at what you’ve made.

“All art is different, just like the people who make it,” Martin added. “I teach my students to respect others in that respect — to look at art without judgment and to build bridges with other people.”

An oil paiting of sunflowers by Ashley Shoemaker, grade 12. An oil paiting of sunflowers by Ashley Shoemaker, grade 12.

Return to top