Maness picked as Fine Arts Educator of the Year

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Since 2014, the Stanly County Arts Council has recognized a Fine Arts Educator of the Year, known as the “Jim Kennedy” award in memory of long-time arts advocate, teacher and coach James D. Kennedy.

The award recognizes a fine arts teacher in the Stanly County public school system who has made a significant impact on the arts in education and has inspired students to pursue, appreciate and respect the fine arts.

Nominations are submitted by principals from the elementary, middle and high schools in Stanly County.

The 2023 recipient of the Fine Arts Educator award is Wanda Maness, visual arts teacher from South Stanly High School.

Maness received her award at the Celebration of the ARTS awards ceremony on March 25. Maness will also be recognized at the April Board of Education meeting on April 4.

Wanda Maness was named the 2023 Fine Arts Educator of the Year. (Contributed)

Maness received a $250 classroom scholarship to help her continue her successful arts program at South Stanly High School.

“Mrs. Maness exemplifies the true meaning of an arts educator, constantly puts students first by seeing the potential each has, works tirelessly to unlock the potential she sees and is patient throughout the learning process,” said Julianne Fallen, principal at South Stanly High School. “Mrs. Maness is encouraging to her peers and wants the best for all who come across her path. She encourages everyone, regardless of their ability.

“She wants each student to experience art and the wonderful sense of fulfillment that comes with being an artist,” Fallen added. “She encourages her students to reach beyond the school. One example is her student Annie Phillips, who was the Congressional art winner for her portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which was proudly displayed at last year’s Celebration of the Arts Student Art Show, and currently hangs at the U.S. Capitol.”

Maness graduated magna cum laude from Wingate University with a BS in Art Education. She has been a visual arts teacher for 30 years, 15 years with Anson County Schools and 15 in Stanly County.

Maness has served Norwood and Richfield elementary schools, West and North Stanly high schools and presently at South Stanly High.

She has served on the Anson Arts Council board, conducting its summer arts programs, and received the President’s and Art Educator Awards for Anson County Schools. She has served on the Arts and Science Council Grants Board and spearheaded the Annual Talent/Art Gallery Crawl.
Maness has received several Angel Classroom Grants and attended NCAE conventions as a school representative.

Maness said teaching at South Stanly High has led her more toward reaching out to the community and involving her students to show and give art away. The VFW Patriotic Art Contest, Congressional Scholars Art Competition, business art displays, rest homes, Arbor Day and county-wide displays are some of the ways her students’ art has been promoted.

Maness attended Norwood Elementary School. She said her third grade teacher, Mrs. Farmer, took an interest in her art and asked her to do all her class boards, which sparked her artistic bloom. That experience always reminds Maness that teachers can lead you to your gifts.

“What I truly love are my students and watching them find their wings,” said Maness. “When I watch a student find their unique voice in art, it is refreshing to me as seeing a flower blooming or a bird singing. Truly a miracle.”

Maness joins previous Fine Arts Educators of the Year awardees Lori Watson, music teacher at Stanfield and Locust elementary schools; Michelle Osborne, art teacher at Central Elementary; Stacy Bottoms, art teacher at West Stanly Middle; Jessica Kiser, band/music teacher at Albemarle Middle; Frank Poolos, band director at North Stanly High; Rebekah Crisco, art teacher at North Stanly Middle: Derek Smith, band director at West Stanly High; and Randy Fike, art teacher at West Stanly High. For 2021, the Arts Person and Fine Arts Educator of the Year awards were combined and honored all arts educators in the county for their dedication to aspiring youth to pursue the arts during the pandemic.

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