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Two Memphis arts teachers win top state award

Two Memphis visual arts teachers were named Art Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Art Education Association.

Ebony Johnson, who teaches at White Station High School, is the 2014-15 High Level Art Teacher of the Year. And Jennifer Shiberou, who teaches at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Shiberou, a teacher at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.
Jennifer Shiberou, a teacher at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.
Shelby County Schools

The Shelby County Schools teachers were selected by peers across the state for the honor, which is given annually to three teachers.

“I’m really pleased to be able to give back to the system that gave me a really fabulous education,” said Shiberou. “I went to Memphis City Schools and had a great art teacher, and decided to become an art teacher myself.” This is Shiberou’s 12th year teaching art.

For each of the past four years, Shiberou has led her eighth graders in creating a project focused on a different social justice. Last year, students produced an exhibit of art focused on poverty in Memphis.

“The exhibit as a whole functions not just as an art show, but to communicate a social issue,” Shiberou said. “It’s been a uniting experience for the students who’ve gone through it.”

“Eighth grade—that’s the age where you become aware of what’s going on around you,” Shiberou said. “It’s a difficult age, but an age where you can make a strong impact.”

Johnson, who is in her fourth year as an arts teacher in Shelby County, said that she also aims to help high school students students learn and communicate about issues that affect their lives. In one of her upcoming projects, White Station high schoolers use art to reflect on education policy.

An upcoming White Station art show, put on by Ms. Johnson’s students, includes art based on students’ experiences with standardized tests.
An upcoming White Station art show, put on by Ms. Johnson’s students, includes art based on students’ experiences with standardized tests.
Ebony Johnson

“Essentially what they were doing is examining how it seems like their identity—their ethnicity, culture, education—seems to be replaced by their proficiency level in standardized testing,” she said.

Johnson said her students know to expect a rigorous workload in her class. “Yes, it’s an elective. But you know when you come in, this is just as important as science and math. What I’m teaching you is to how to have a voice and a visual language to express yourself.”

“Nothing is off limits in that room,” she said.

“I am extremely proud of Mrs. Shiberou. She is a great art teacher and a pillar of the work at Colonial,” said Marty Pettigrew, principal of Colonial Middle School, in a press release. “She constantly guides students to express their thoughts through the visual arts.”

“Ms. Johnson is a hard-working and dedicated teacher devoted to her profession, her students, and her content,” said Gregg Coats, Visual Arts & Theatre Instructional Advisor for Shelby County Schools, in a press release. “She is continually promoting, exhibiting and involving her students’ works in competitions, performances and exhibitions. The level of her leadership and work ethic representation is strongly indicative of her professionalism and organizational skills.”

Both teachers will be honored at a ceremony at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the University of Memphis.

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