Shawnee Mission South art teacher Jennifer Hudson knows that not every student who takes one of her classes is going to become the next Picasso.
And that’s OK, because she’s looking at the bigger picture when it comes to her students.
“I realize not all of my students will become artists, but if I can create citizens who are knowledgeable about art and appreciate art, that’s the more important goal,” Hudson said.
With that in mind, Hudson has devoted her seven-year teaching career to bringing both color and culture to her students’ worlds. And now that devotion has earned her the honor of being named the Outstanding Secondary Art Educator of the Year for Kansas.
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Hudson is the only secondary art teacher in Kansas to be given the award. It’s given out each year by the Kansas Art Education Association. The organization will honor a total of seven art educators in various categories during a conference in Russell, Kan. in October.
Hudson was nominated for the award by one of her colleagues in the Shawnee Mission School District. She submitted an application and letters of recommendation last May and found out she won the award in July.
“The committee considers things like leadership, service to the teaching profession, program development, artistic production, and involvement with the Kansas Art Education Association,” said awards chairwoman Angie Mitchell. “Jennifer rated very high in all of those areas.”
Hudson teaches a variety of classes at Shawnee Mission South, including drawing, digital media, advanced placement studio art, painting and introduction to studio art. When she’s not in the classroom, she looks for ways to get her students into the community to enrich their education. One of the ways she’s accomplished this in the past was by partnering with a senior living facility and hosting an art show featuring the work of both her students and the facility’s residents.
Another way she tries to expose her students to the work of artists is through the use of technology. Hudson and one of her classes have become video pen pals with a young artist in Georgia. Through regular video chats with her, Hudson is able to expose her students to what life is really like for a recent college graduate working as an artist.
“I really try to use contemporary and young artists in my classroom so students can see what the next step is to becoming an artist,” Hudson said.
But even though not every one of her students will pursue art as a career, Hudson thinks every one of her students can get something valuable out of an art education. She said that one of the things that art education creates that other classes don’t is problems where there are multiple solutions.
“This is a design problem and we can have 25 right answers,” Hudson said. “A lot of classes involve memorization, so really having an opportunity to creatively come up with solutions is incredibly important. It also provides a personal touch where students can combine more of themselves in the class. Everybody’s (work) won’t look the same.”
And as Hudson works to instill art appreciation in her students, she is appreciative of the people teaching around her. She credits the team she works with for helping to put her in a position to be recognized as the Outstanding Secondary Art Educator of the Year.
“I really am glad to be in a district that appreciates art and recognizes it as an important part of a student’s education,” Hudson said. “We are all working really hard for our students. I am in a building where everyone is so supportive.”