Art Teacher Awards

Art Teacher Awards

NYSATA Region 7 Awards Program is now open to receiving nominations for an outstanding art educators in the following categories:

Elementary, Middle School, High School, Retired, College/University and Patron of the Arts.

We all know exemplary Art Educators, colleagues who go beyond their call of duty in the classroom, are active participants who advocate for the visual arts in their communities and have shared their expertise with other Art Educators, District-wide, State-wide and Nationally.

We encourage you to recognize these Art Educators by completing online nomination form.

All nominators and nominees must be current NYSATA members. After completing all required information, simply hit SUBMIT. Nominee submissions are due May 15, 2020.

All award recipients will be celebrated at a special NYSATA Region 7 awards celebration during our annual members art show in June of 2020.


Our annual awards for 2019 were held at the Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, during the opening for our Members Show in June.


Betsy Murphy
Peggy O’Hara
Kathy Giles
Monica Schor (Region 7 Co-Chair) and Jenn Wassmer (Region 7 BOT Rep and R7 Teacher of the Year)
Nancy Diamond with family and friends.


Betsy has taught elementary art for almost 30 years. She believes that art enables everyone to have a voice. She works tirelessly to keep her curriculum both engaging and currently relevant. She is consistently seeking out professional development on current topics, trend and technology to use in her practice. She has worked with numerous student teachers and even serves as an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College where she works with pre-Service students in the department of Art Education. She is an active member of NYSATA. She has presented at many conferences and symposiums and has collaborated to bring interesting and necessary professional development opportunities to NYSATA region 7 South including book discussions and social gatherings. In her personal artistic journey she continues to be an active artist. She maintains a website of her artistic pursuits where you can see her beautiful line of fused glass. She recently had a very successful solo show of her glass creations at the Mamaroneck Artist Guild Gallery.
One could certainly fill up pages with the personal and professional accomplishments of Peggy Ann O’Hara, and while that list would give an outer layer glimpse of a fantastic person and art educator, it would not really show to all the core of why she deserves this NYSATA recognition. Peggy has brought an unusual level of excellence, caring, knowledge, creativity and fierce advocacy to her work as a public school art educator each and every day of her work with students and her art department members. Her firm belief of making art available to all students has opened up pathways for those previously not able to participate in the arts. Her work with a gifted autistic student has led him to incredible advances artistically and in his connections with family and admirers. His art has been displayed in local galleries and at fundraisers for Autism Awareness. Peggy made a video her work with this student and the presentation was highlighted at our district Opening Day Convocation. Peggy has put the A in STEM in our district through groundbreaking vertical work with our Physics and Design and Illustration departments and has incorporated technology in everyday Studio Art classes. The Cardboard Boat Regatta brought together students at all grade levels. Our Strive and Spirit classes benefit from STEAM activities and all students rally for the CO2 car project. The FFMS Art Department presents student work in local galleries and throughout the buildings, and Peggy presents integrated curriculum projects at district meetings, Tech Expos, and NYSATA conferences. Peggy embraced the new 2017 NewYork State Standards for the Arts and helped shape an understanding of them in her department. Peggy turned a family tragedy into the development of the O’Hara Nature Center and is a member of the Irvington Woods Committee and the O’Hara Foundation. She is the past president of the Rockland Art Educators Association and continues work and workshops in bullseye glass. Her interest and study in Synesthesia has been shared in our district in workshops with music educators. Every day brings joy to Peggy as she shares new art experiences with her students and encourages them to develop deeper understandings of themselves through expression.
I have worked with Kathy Giles at Rhinebeck HS for the last 10 years. Over these years, she has earned my admiration as an art-maker, an art-lover and an eternal advocate for both The Arts and the students that come and go through our school’s doors. It is always during the months of April and May, when budget concerns hover, that I admire Kathy most. She never gives up – She never blinks. When someone says we have no money for a field trip, she finds a way. Whether it through fund-raising or grants, she has managed to make plans, secure funds, and take our students to NYC or Mass Moca every year. The last few years have been a constant struggle to keep our classes going. But again, she never steps back. She pushes our dept. to go forward, and we survey students, we give talks to the underclassmen, we make our own course catalog, we hold a district-wide art exhibit. She is the ultimate advocate and makes making art the “ in” thing to do at the high school. She is the HS Art Club advisor, and her classroom door and her heart are always open to students walking in and wanting to make art. It is their safe place. This year, I was injured and out for a month. Kathy really stepped up to the plate by helping my sub(s) continue in my absence and to give my students smooth and satisfying experience. She also continues to support me as I heal now. A hand injury in the art room is a sour pill to swallow. Kathy has been there to encourage and help me since my return. There are some things people do for you that just can’t be repaid. Kathy is always there – for me, for her students and for her family. In addition to teaching ceramics, advanced, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, print-making and portfolio/ art exploration, Kathy is co-owner of Sunnyside Gardens Nursery with her husband Sean Giles and is raising two great boys, Griffin and Sawyer. Between baseball, basketball, gardening, marketing, and all the other home-making projects and duties she does, Kathy Giles never blinks. She is even, unwavering, constant. I am nominating Kathy Giles for this award, not because she is retiring or has performed a super-human feat this year, but because she is a constant source of inspiration – for her good spirit, her attitude and her unmitigated push to keep art in the foreground of a good education.
I am writing this letter of recommendation in reference to Nancy Diamond. She clearly deserves the art educator award of the year (and beyond). Nancy has been my mentor, my sister, my aunt, my colleague, and so much more. Nancy is the chairperson of the art department at Clarkstown North High School. She has been teaching there for 30+ years. Nancy hired me in 2006 and has continuously inspired me for all of these years. Nancy taught me early on that her motto was to be visible. “The arts need to be so integral and interconnected to the school as a whole that they would never think of cutting our program.” She lives and breathes art education. Some other people might become jaded and unmotivated after working in a career for so long–not Nancy. She is constantly reflecting and making things fresh for herself and the department as a whole. Nancy is highly respected by not only her department but other faculty members and the administration as well. Over the years, I’ve witnessed Nancy pull off major school wide events. From the annual senior class mural to the epic Charity Water Walk (where we raised $20,000 to build a well in a developing nation). Each year, Nancy organizes an Art College Fair so students can learn about various summer programs and opportunities and have portfolios reviewed. She also organizes an Art Career day where we have professionals who work in the arts come in to present throughout the day. Last year we worked on a school initiative with The Butterfly Project. This is part of an international project started by a ceramic teacher to commemorate the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. We made 1,000 ceramic butterflies and attached them to the outside of one of our school buildings.  While this was a department initiative, she took lead. This is a great example of how Nancy is always going above and beyond. We could have simply participated and been done with it, but Nancy organized an assembly and brought in a local holocaust survivor to share her story. She also made a connection with the artist that started the project (who lives in California) and had her come visit the school after the completion of the project. Nancy is also the adviser to the National Art Honor Society. She brought this to the school about 15 years ago and I’ve seen it grow from about 20 students to 80 plus. She now has an art army (as she calls them)! Just a few years ago, she made student exhibits part of the work NAHS oversees.
As I’m writing all of this and knowing that there still is SO much more that Nancy does on a daily basis, I am overwhelmed by her commitment and dedication. Nancy leads by example and you can see the impact she has on the other art teachers and the rest of the staff in the school. I also want to highlight her ability to connect to individual students. Nancy is a phenomenal teacher. In the classroom, she is constantly looking for new ways to engage and bring in current and relevant topics and artists. She is also there for the troubled students who find a safe haven in her room. Her doors are always open. Nancy will be retiring soon and she will leave big shoes to fill. I am sure that her legacy will live on in the school, but she also deserves to be recognized on a larger scale. Please consider Nancy for this award of recognition.
This April Kathryn completed her third year of volunteering to teach origami to senior citizens at Lifetime Learning Institute at SUNY New Paltz. She teaches approximately 20 seniors per class. She prepares new material each semester because more than half of the class consists of repeaters. The fall of 2019 will be her third year of teaching a math-based origami project to all 4th graders at Rhinebeck Elementary School. She’s been awarded an ongoing grant from Rhinebeck Science & Math Foundation. Each class receives her instruction for a total of 2 and a half hours over the course of 4 days. In the Arlington district, for the past 2 years, she’s been teaching an introductory class in origami each semester to all 7th graders at Union Vale Middle School. Plans are in place for her return next year through Dutchess BOCES Arts In Education. In addition, for the past three years she’s been a volunteer outdoor educator at Mohonk Preserve RID working with elementary and middle school classes. Some of the activities include nature photography and sketching. She also volunteer at her local SPCA. Nancy is a great example of a veteran art teacher who keeps contributing to her profession and community.’

Region 7 Art Educator Awards
Members may nominate outstanding NYSATA Region 7 member art teacher by recognizing exemplary service and achievement of significance within each level.
– College Student                   – Elementary
– Middle School                      – High School
– Supervisor                            – Administrator
– Museum                                – Retiree

The objectives of the Region 7 Awards Program are:

  • To recognize excellence in the many outstanding individuals;
  • To focus professional attention on quality art education and exemplary art educators;
  • To increase public awareness of the importance of quality art education;
  • To set standards for quality art education and how they can be achieved; and
  • To provide tangible recognition of achievement, earn respect of colleagues, and enhance   professional opportunities for Region 7 members.

Eligibility: Region 7 members who meet the established criteria are eligible to be nominated for awards. A member is eligible only for an award for their respective level/job. The level/job should be indicated on the nominee’s nomination form and should be at least 51% of the duties they perform for their job.