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 the spring of 2021.

2019-2020 Art Teacher Award Winners


Brenda Sywalski

sywalskiBrenda is a studying and practicing, artist and educator. Over the course of her career, she has intensely evolved her teaching practice as our curriculum, standards and students change. Whether it is on a canvas, or in Adobe Illustrator, Brenda encourages her students to think like artists, to be willing to push themselves past their first thoughts and to dig deeper and to discover the processes an artist uses to speak. As students do find a passion in the Arts, Brenda has always gone above and beyond for them, making sure they got to Portfolio days by arranging trips there, by participating in Scholastic Awards, with trips to Art Colleges when parents couldn’t.  She makes sure that her students know how to develop and present a portfolio, that through projects she spearheads like the Sullivan County Portfolio Project students have to stand up and speak on their work. As an AP teacher, she offers the students willing to work towards this esteemed designation have the opportunity to do so. Brenda’s school community has benefitted from her skills for years as she host Art Openings in the hallway, is the advisor for the National Art Honor Society and the Art club. Her NAHS  has hosted off campus activities for fundraising. As a member of the STEAM committee, Brenda has had to learn and bring back to her district changes to be implemented to grow the mindset of makers.

Outside of school, Brenda is the Sullivan County Representative and active in the organization, generous with her skills in logo design, giving workshops at a bunch of symposiums and willing to take on large scale projects .

Brenda is there to encourage, excite and support her students.  She is ready willing and able to teach adults and Art Educators.  She gives of her time and talents-always.



Catherine Ibanez is a wonderful example of a teacher, artist, collaborator and leader. She earned her BFA in painting from Syracuse University, then studied, worked and painted in Florence, Italy through 1990. She earned an MA in Art Education from the College of New Rochelle and holds a New York State K-12 Art Teacher Certification. She teaches elementary art at Brookside School in the Ossining Public School District. Cathy has participated in numerous group exhibitions and has had four solo exhibitions of paintings at The Ossining Public Library Gallery, 1986, 2010, 2012, and 2015. She is currently painting in acrylics but also works in oil, oil pastel, graphite, and collage. She experiments continually with new materials and processes and is always eager to expand her understanding and skills. She brings that enthusiasm into the numerous workshops she has given at Region 7 professional development events, along with leading many book discussion groups in Westchester County. She continually posts her photography and daily artwork on social media, is active in providing presentation opportunities for her colleagues, and has often led initiatives in art education in her area of the region. She’s got depth, a generous, warm heart, brings enthusiasm and passion to her personal and collaborative art projects, and always has a welcome smile for her community of art teachers and makers.


Tomi Nonenmacher

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Tomi Nonenmacher for a NYSATA award. Tomi is at once a skillful artist and extraordinary teacher whose classroom has been a sanctuary for her students over the span of her 30 plus year career.

A pioneer of TAB choice-based art education for the Hyde Park District, Tomi is skillful at inculcating students with studio habits of mind, and she challenges them to look deeply and critically. She is highly skilled at offering scaffolding and skill building opportunities while encouraging students to develop and hone their own artistic voice. Whether she is working with tentative kindergartners or more self-assured 5th graders, her room is a buzzing workshop where imagination meets attention to craft and students develop agency over their own creative process.

Tomi is committed to offering students a rich array of artistic examples that are reflective of their cultures; consistently offering students “windows and mirrors” that allow them to see art that reflects their own experiences and/or allows them a view into the worlds of others. She has been instrumental in creating a welcoming and nurturing culture in the schools that she works in. One of the most anticipated events that she curates each year is the Chinese New Year Parade. Students design dragons, other creatures, and costumes; the magic of the art room spills out into the hallways for a dazzling display of color and movement. The vibrant pageantry of this event is always exciting to witness, but perhaps more importantly the coming together of the school community for the display creates a palpable sense of unity. Fostering connection and community permeates all of her work with students.

Ms. Nonenmacher constantly opens the world of her art classroom to include families. She has created numerous evening events that have enabled parents and students to work together to explore and create art. In addition to fostering collective creativity, these opportunities allow families to transcend differences in language and culture and form connections based on the shared creation of beauty. While there are many school events that allow parents to attend as audience members, Tomi’s evening family art events offer the rare experience of engaging whole families in the process of making art together.

A highly skilled artist in her own right, Ms. Nonenmacher consistently models the creative habit for her students and has maintained her own practice over the course of her teaching career. She continually inspires students and staff alike and her contributions to the district and the community are widely and deeply felt. A distinguished artist, a devoted teacher and a compassionate human being committed to social justice; she is a role model in the truest sense of the word.



Lotte Petricone is very deserving of this recognition both personally and professionally. As she begins to take over the department this year as Department Chairman, she leads by example. Being thrown into and unbelievably difficult time as a leader, she has come up with creative ways to not only teach remotely, but assess students on their abilities to be nominated for our accelerated placement in Grade 8 Studio Art. Using the Seesaw App and Google Classroom, Lotte has created an assessment process for students she has never met. This process enabled the department to jury portfolios and come up with sound recommendations. In addition, Lotte spearheaded a first ever Virtual Art Show for grades 6,7, and 8. Her patience and understanding with teachers who were not at her level with technology shows what a great leader she will be.



Daniel Aktas is an art and engineering instructor at Pine Bush High School. Mr. Aktas received his BFA in Ceramics at SUNY New Paltz while exploring digital printing technologies and his Masters at NYU Steinhardt for Art Education with an emphasis on social justice. He has developed and implemented the first fine art 3D printing course at Pine Bush called Art & Fabrication to support students’ creativity with digital manufacturing equipment. Recently he has presented annual NYSATA conference and will be presenting again this summer at the HASS HTEC manufacturing conference.



Liz VonWurmb spent her teaching career as a music teacher and now leads as the Clarkstown School District’s Arts Coordinator. Although she is retired as a music teacher, she works harder now as an advocate of the arts. Liz is equally as passionate about the visual arts as she is about music and has been a great promoter of all of the arts in our district and in Albany as she is instrumental in her work with the implementation of the Standards for the Arts. In district meetings Liz would be our cheerleader and always question how certain changes would affect the arts. One administrator noted her influence by saying that now Even when Liz may not even be in a meeting, someone will ask how this will affect the arts!

When there is a need for anything in our programs, Liz is there saying, “how can I help?” She is a constant pillar of support at the district and state level and is certainly deserving of recognition by NYSATA Region 7



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.