While schools across the nation suffer from art education budget cuts, here at KU, the arts are emphasized with the hope of making an impact on the local community and even the world. The Pa. Art Education Association’s (PAEA) annual fall conference was held on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 in Harrisburg. At the conference, KU alumni and faculty received eight of the 10 awards. University educators, Dr. Heather Fountain and Dr. Carrie Nordlund were honored at PAEA as well as art education senior, Mary Kate Bergh.
The conference this year focused on design thinking. It recognized collaboration and the journey between ideation and implementation. KU was acknowledged as a leading force in art education for its professors that go above and beyond the classroom.
Dr. Heather Fountain, Associate Professor of Art Education and Chairwoman of the Undergraduate Art Education Program, was honored with the PAEA’s 2012 Outstanding Special Needs Art Educator award.
“With that [award] comes a responsibility to make sure I continue to help other teachers in the field expand their knowledge of children with disabilities and adults with disabilities,” said Dr. Fountain. This is the beginning of her sixth year teaching at KU, and already, her impact is impressive.
Dr. Fountain makes sure students have proper accommodations in their classes and has realigned the entire department curriculum to include more knowledge about working with students with disabilities.
Colleague, Dr. Nordlund, said, “She makes me a better person, and she makes me a better teacher.”
Dr. Fountain has developed a class, Designing for Disabilities. While working with students with a wide range of disabilities, it is important to use proper language.
“Special Needs is a term that has been outdated for a long time,” said Dr. Fountain. She believes “Outstanding Disability Awareness Educator,” would have been a better title for her award.
A leading expert in her field, Dr. Fountain’s book, Differentiated Instruction in Art, is coming out next month and will engage artists in classrooms, museums, and non-profit organizations. She has worked both at the state level and nationally.
“I have seen people with disabilities who have had a lot of difficulty expressing themselves, or just connecting with other people, and art has been that connector for them,” said Dr. Fountain on the rewarding aspect of her career.
Another KU professor honored at the PAEA conference was Dr. Carrie Nordlund, Associate Professor of Art Education and recipient of the Outstanding Higher Education Art Educator Award.
“Dr. Nordlund is one of the most caring, generous professors in our department. She is an amazing colleague, but also an amazing teacher, because she is someone who honestly gets to know each student and cares about whether they succeed,” said Dr. Fountain.
Fairly new to Pa., Dr. Nordlund chose to join the KU staff six years ago because of its highly acclaimed reputation for Art Education in the undergraduate program. Since then, she has certainly made her mark. Her exemplary teaching methods challenge students to wonder and explore art in depth.
“Art making is one of many ways of thinking. We want to encourage young people to walk out in the world and have the skills to meet the 21st century dilemmas,” said Dr. Nordlund.
She has won numerous awards and has worked with state and national level art organizations.
“I’m really a social reconstructionist at heart. I think that’s why I got into education; because it wasn’t about teaching art, it was about moving the world forward and the bigger picture,” said Dr. Nordlund. Recently, she was invited to be on an advocacy committee for the PAEA Education Policy Leadership Fellowship Program.
Dr. Nordlund strives to raise the bar. She hopes to advocate the necessity of art education in schools across the nation.
“It’s really [about] being in the eyes of legislatures, being in the eyes of school boards and working in partnership with them,” said Dr. Nordlund.
Another award recipient this year was KU Honors Program student, Mary Kate Bergh. She received the 2012 PAEA Fellows Clyde M. McGeary Scholarship.
“Mary Kate is someone who has the most positive energy,” said Dr. Nordlund, who also believes she will be a great leader in her field.
Dr. Wonder and Dr. White nominated Bergh for the scholarship because of her student involvement and hard work in her major. In addition to many clubs and a 3.91 cumulative GPA, Bergh was noticed for her work in NAEA. She took the initiative to get “Friday Night Outs,” a program that offers art to kids in the community and allows students to test their role as teachers, back up and better than ever.
“I’ve made a point to really stand out and to make the most out of what our department offers,” said Bergh. She encourages students to get involved with their majors, to be overachievers, and to do what they love. Bergh plans to graduate in the spring and hopes to travel and to teach art.
Kutztown dominated the 2012 PAEA fall conference this year by receiving many well-deserved awards. The conference validated that KU is leading the way for art educators of the future.
By Haley Bianco