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GCPS art educators receive state honor

October 24, 2022

     Three Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) educators have earned recognition by the Georgia Art Education Association (GAEA) as some of theLeft to right: Stephanie Birmingham, Loria Crews, Elizabeth Debban top art educators in the state. Stephanie Birmingham of Five Forks Middle School is GAEA’s Middle School Art Educator of the Year. Elizabeth Debban of Brookwood High School is GAEA’s Secondary Art Educator of the Year, and Loria Crews of Brookwood High School is this year’s National Art Honor Society Award winner.
     Ms. Birmingham expressed her pride in being part of this recognition, saying “To be a part of such an amazing team of supportive and talented Art educators is an empowering feeling. We are a family in the Brookwood Cluster and when one of us thrives we are all proud.” Ms. Birmingham went on to point out that having three members of that Visual Arts family recognized by the state was a great surprise and lets her know that others see the hard work they put into their classrooms every day.
     “My own devotion to art and my students’ passion propels my work in the classroom. I know how important art was to my life growing up and continues to be a part of my personal practice, and I’m excited to share this with my students every day,” shared Ms. Debban, when asked what fuels her passion for the work. She pointed out that “One of the most rewarding moments in teaching is experiencing that ‘a-ha!’ moment with a student, where their eyes light up and they are so excited about their idea that they must immediately start creating. The art classroom is where learning gets personal, and life and learning overlap every day.”
     GAEA is a professional organization of art educators in Georgia affiliated with the National Art Education Association. The mission of GAEA is to advocate for the highest quality visual arts education and provide for the advancement of knowledge through service, leadership, and research. This year’s winners were recognized at the GAEA Virtual Fall Conference.
     “The award is not just for the person engraved on the plaque, it's for the past leaders, current leaders, members, and other hardworking educators...,” Ms. Crews said. She explained that working at Brookwood High and with its students has shown her that high schoolers are actively running meetings, planning events, and are generous with their time when it comes to advocating for the arts in our community and beyond.