Art Educator of the Year Award 2012
Grundy Center Community School District
Ronda has been named the Western Region Art Educator of the Year, as well. She will be recognized at the NAEA Convention.
Ronda Sternhagen, secondary art educator at Grundy Center Schools (GCS), will be honored as its 2012 Art Teacher of the Year at the joint Nebraska/Iowa art education conference on October 6, 2012.
Sternhagen works passionately to bring her love of art and the creative process to her students. Kassi Nelson, a former student of Sternhagen’s, is now an art teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community Schools. Nelson says of her, “She makes her students fall in love with Art! Her creative soul is evident to everyone around her. Her ability to share her love for art with her students is contagious and makes you want to become a better teacher! She is so willing to share her ideas and creative ability with others without expecting anything in return.”
Cassandra Murra, Superintendent of GCS, points out that Sternhagen “teaches students in sixth through twelfth grades and does a fantastic job of understanding each level and assisting them to grow in their art skills and appreciation of art.”
Artwork by Sternhagen’s students is exhibited both locally and in state competitions. Her students’ work is displayed annually at the local Arts Festival, she had student work accepted into the AEI Youth Art Month show in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and her student’s work was selected to be a part of the exclusive Iowa’s Governor’s Show in 2008.
Sternhagen’s passion for art is not limited to the classroom, as she has a productive creative life of her own. She makes jewelry and other artistic accessories and sells them locally. Her work has been included in a number of shows, including the University of Northern Iowa’s "A-R-Tography" show, AEI Conference shows including this year’s joint Nebraska/Iowa juried show, and a special show exhibited at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls titled, "Kern-Noborikawa-Sternhagen-Terhark: Masters of Art Education."
Sternhagen also contributes to the quality and advancement of art instruction across the state of Iowa. She has held several offices on the AEI board, most recently as President and currently as Past-President. She currently serves on the Visual Arts in the Iowa Core Writing Team producing and presenting work that will help art teachers to implement the Iowa Core. She annually provides top-quality presentations at AEI’s Fall Conference, which are always filled to capacity. She had a manuscript published in Arts&Activities magazine featuring “Bridget Riley-inspired Op Art Drawings.” She is every bit as generous with her enthusiasm for inspiring other art teachers as she is in bringing art to her own students.
Steve VanderPol, Grundy Center secondary principal commented of Sternhagen’s passion and abilities, “The involvement in various school, community and state events along with her organizational involvement is accomplished through her commitment, talents, and communication skills.”
When asked about receiving the award, Sternhagen stated, “It is incredibly humbling to be nominated for an AEI award, but when you hear you are the award recipient, it makes you stop in your tracks and reflect on the experiences you have had and the students you have taught. I strongly believe that my creativity was first fostered at home by parents who always encouraged me through imaginative play and to simply ‘make things.’
“This year marks the beginning of my 22nd year in the classroom, all of which has been spent in just two school districts. That stems from having the superior support of my fellow staff members, administrators, school board members, parents and students. It would be nearly impossible to even guess how many students have crossed the threshold into my art room, and there are probably an equal number of highlights because each student has brought something unique to my life and career. That could be from back in the day when I taught elementary students and the sheer pleasure that they found in creating something that they had never experienced before. Maybe it's that middle school student that has a unique sense of humor that shines through their work, or the quiet one who finds ways to speak volumes with their creativity. Then there are those high school students who find out that it's OK to be good at art or maybe the few go on to follow in your footsteps and become an accomplished art teacher in a classroom all their own. All of that on top of the numerous students who have gone on to make a living in an art career makes for a very rewarding career in art education.
“I would be remiss if I didn't mention the collaboration with fellow art teachers. Many of the creative ideas for bringing art alive for my students come from colleagues in my local AEA, the AEI conferences and colleagues that I have met from across the United States as I have traveled to NAEA conventions. Technology has brought us all closer together and collaboration is just the click of a few buttons away. We no longer have to wait for a face-to-face meeting to collaborate, although those face-to-face meetings probably generate the most creative collaborations.
“I can't help but have a smile on my face. Thank you, AEI, for this amazing honor!”
AEI thanks Sternhagen for her dedication to the profession of art education, her commitment to students, and all of her tireless contributions to the visual arts.