Merrill named art educator of year

One of Karen Merrill’s goals as an art teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary School is to make sure student art projects incorporate concepts taught in other classes.

She said that helps reinforce what is taught in other subjects while teaching students basic artistic concepts at the same time.

Such lessons prompted the Washington Art Education Association to name Merrill its Elementary Art Educator of the Year. She will receive her award Oct. 12 during a convention in Tukwila.

“It was great,” Merrill said of learning she won the award.

Fellow art teacher Nicollette Harrington nominated Merrill for the award.

For her part, Merrill enjoyed putting together the information needed to be considered for the award, as well as hearing what other people said about her program.

Merrill has been teaching art at Oak Harbor Elementary since 2001. She was one of the first art teachers hired after voters approved a maintenance and operations levy that funded art and physical education programs in each of the elementary schools.

Only a little more than a month into the school year, students are incorporating everything from the life cycles of animals to the land forms of the state in their projects.

“It’s just a tie-in with everything they do in the classroom,” Merrill said.

In addition to art projects that back up other subjects, she has helped with several more visible projects. Students at the school teamed up to make decorative tiles that were placed at Deception Pass State Park. Each grade took on a different theme.

Merrill also teams up with her fellow art teachers in the district during Holland Happening. Together they work to plaster the storefronts of downtown businesses with student artwork. It’s a way to show the community the kind of work elementary student are producing and it’s also a thank you to the voters for their continued support of the M and O levy that funds the art program.

Prior to coming to Oak Harbor, Merrill had a long, 25-year career teaching art in New York state. In fact, she earned a similar educator of the year honor while teaching on the East Coast.

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