Arts educators receive classroom mini-grants

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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Since 2014, the Stanly County Arts Council has recognized both an Arts Person of the Year and a Fine Arts Educator of the Year.

Kandyce Norton

Julie Starnes

Jonathan Davis

For 2021, the Board of Directors of the Stanly County Arts Council decided to take a one-year hiatus from these traditional awards.

John Williams

Jennifer Rhodes

Frank Poolos






“We felt that during one of the most challenging years ever, especially for the arts, that recognizing only one person or one teacher was not adequate to what was happening behind the scenes to keep the arts alive for our community and students,” said Bradley Eudy, chairman of the Stanly County Arts Council.

Chuck Carte

Daniel Dickens

Corey Poole

The Fine Arts Educator of the Year award is known as the “Jim Kennedy” award in memory of long-time arts advocate, teacher and coach James D. Kennedy. This award recognizes a fine arts teacher in the Stanly County public school system who has made a significant positive impact on the arts in education and has inspired students to pursue, appreciate and respect the fine arts.

Chris Wilson

Chris Accornero

Cheryl Savage-Mazza

During the 2020-2021 school year, all arts educators, at all levels, did this on a daily basis. With the financial support of Uwharrie Bank and a community grant from the Albemarle Rotary Club, all fine arts educators were honored at a recent Board of Education meeting by receiving a mini-grant of $100 each for their arts classroom.

Candi Russell

Andrew Warburton

Amanda Wooten

“The classroom grants will allow the arts educators to prepare for the coming school year, but more importantly, show that they are appreciated for their commitment this past year,” added Renee VanHorn, executive director of the Stanly County Arts Council.

Kevin Butler

Kim Hardy

Laura Snider






“Rotary’s motto is service above self,” said Todd Swaringen, Albemarle Rotary Club community grant chairman. “Our Albemarle Rotary Club truly strives to walk the talk by raising funds each year to support community organizations through grants and high school graduates
through our scholarships.  We are proud to award the Stanly County Arts Council with a community grant for 2021. Our educators illuminate students’ potential every day and open a world of opportunity for their futures successes. Our hope is that this community grant will assist art educators in that endeavor.”

Lori Watson

Marion McClure

Melisa Isenhour

According to Lori Watson, music teacher at Oakboro Stem and Stanfield Elementary, “The art and music teachers ‘rolling into’ the classroom was the bright spot in the students’ day. It became a time for them to express themselves and have a much-needed change of pace from a day that consisted of being at their desk in the same room all day.”

Randall Fike

Rebecca Nelson

Rebekah Crisco

At the middle school level, the arts educators relinquished their physical classrooms to fifth-grade students, a move required to meet social distancing guidelines. Besides losing their classrooms, the exploratory team, including Visual Art and Band/Music teachers, was also responsible for conducting health screenings/temperature checks for all students and delivering lunches each day.

Sarah Blanton

Stacy Bottoms

Tracey Smith

They taught their arts classes completely virtual. Teaching remotely is difficult for all, but especially challenging for arts educators. Imagine the difficulty of teaching a new instrument or teaching a clay lesson in a virtual format. They did an amazing job keeping the students engaged, creating supply kits to ensure exposure to all the visual arts as if they were in the classroom, and used apps to help students learn their instruments and be able to sing together remotely.

Wanda Maness

Rebekah Crisco, visual arts teacher at North Stanly Middle School, commented, “There were students that struggled to be successful in the virtual learning environment. That was the most difficult thing to accept this year. I am anxiously looking forward to getting them back on track next year. At the same time though, some amazing work was created, and I was able to fill my display cases with gorgeous painted canvases more than once. Our virtual art gallery was even featured on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website.”

Wes Tucker

At the high school level, the student body was split between Group A and Group B, offering a different challenge. At the same time, these educators created virtual concerts and theatre productions; and this spring they were able to bring back live theatre to the stage while still adhering to Covid protocols.

“This year definitely gave birth to a lot of creativity,” said Laura Snider, band director at Albemarle High School. “There are difficulties we will continue to face as we navigate both teaching online and in person at the same time. Much of the year we focused on music appreciation, theory, instrument/vocal health and history.”

Snider is rebuilding the band/ marching band program at Albemarle High School. She has a link to an interest form on the school website for all students considering band or marching band in the fall.

Research shows that arts education is essential to the overall success of the student. According to the research compiled by Americans for the Arts, students who have access to arts education typically stay in school and experience greater success in school, in life and in work.

The 2021 Fine Arts Educators of the Year mini-grants will help the arts teachers restart their programs in the fall and transform students’ lives.

The Stanly County Arts Council was founded in 1974. It continues to promote and support all art forms in the community. Its mission is to encourage and promote broad-based cultural and educational activities in the arts throughout Stanly County. The Stanly County Arts Council is supported by private donations and by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For the latest information on the arts in Stanly County, visit Contact VanHorn at