Top Arts Educators Announced at Broward Cultural Division’s ArtsEd Forever! Event
By Nancy Kalikow Maxwell
Andrea Alter, dance teacher at Weston’s Falcon Cove Middle School, considers herself lucky. She gets paid to do what she loves. Winning the Broward County Art Teacher of the Year Award for Dance made her job even better. “To be recognized and appreciated for my work. That is the best feeling ever!”
Alter was one of 20 arts educators and administrators receiving awards at the PNC ArtsEd Forever! Arts Teacher of the Year Awards ceremony held March 30th at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Now in its 30th year, ArtsEd Forever! is a year-round program of the Broward Cultural Division, School Board of Broward County, and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. PNC Bank, along with several local businesses, community groups, and individuals, sponsor the event that bestows awards on educators and organizations for outstanding contributions to arts education.
Along with Alter, three other educators were named Arts Teachers of the Year, carrying prizes of up to $2,000 for the individual and $500 for the school. Arts Teacher of the Year winners included: Tami Williams from Hollywood’s West Hollywood Elementary School for music; Jerry Seeger, Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s drama teacher, for theater arts; and Phylis Mastrianni from Parkside Elementary School in Coral Springs, for visual arts. Robin Braun took home the prize of Teaching Artist of the Year.
Thanks to the generosity of Broadway director Neil Goldberg and EcoMedia, a CBS company, two new arts educator award categories were added this year. Goldberg donated $15,000 from his private foundation to reward the performers voted audience favorites at the “We… The Passion & Rhythm of the People” event held October 3rd in commemoration of Broward County’s 100th Anniversary. Winning the top prize of $10,000 was the Kelly Academy of Irish Dance for a show-stopping performance honoring airline stewardesses. Also honored with $1,000 gifts each were: the Japanese drumming troupe Fushu Daiko, international costume parade designer Sean DeFreitas, the Gateway Community Church choir, ten-year-old pianist Brandon Goldberg, and 12-year-old singer Ella Noriega.
Three Broward County Schools–Hollywood’s Lake Forest and Mary Bethune Elementary Schools and Fort Lauderdale’s Walker Elementary School–shared the EcoMedia gift of $13,000 to support their Turnaround Arts Program. Established by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Turnaround Arts Program is a national public-private partnership designed to help transform the nation’s lowest performing schools through comprehensive and integrated arts education. The EcoMedia donation, made possible through the company’s advertising program, provides support for critical, yet underfunded, education projects nationwide.
Two local arts organizations, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood and the Florida Youth Orchestra, were awarded Exceptional Service and Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Awards including $500 for each group.
Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr received the Legislator Recognition Award for his work on the Children’s Services Council’s Literacy Coalition and Cultural Arts and Literacy Initiative. Based on a program in Denver, the Literacy Initiative provides free access for 5,000 children and caregivers to attend events and exhibits at more than 20 Broward County arts and cultural venues.
In accepting the award, Furr reminisced about his previous 30 years as an elementary, middle, and high school teacher. “We were always envious of the arts teachers because the students would slump slowly to our classes, but skip off to arts classes. At the end of class, they didn’t even want to leave,” he said. Dance teacher Andrea Alter nodded in agreement. Just like her, the students loved their art classes.