WCHS teacher named Ky. High School Art Teacher of the Year at awards banquet

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By Jesse Osbourne

It’s been a big year for Washington County High School teacher Marilyn Peters.

She would say the biggest news is that her student’s work won three out of six art awards at the recent Kentucky Art Educators Association (KyAEA) contest recently.
Then, she went on to claim second place for her work in the teacher category for a portrait of her granddaughter in the womb. She had never placed in the contest before.
“When you’re talking about the work there, you’re talking about amazing artists work,” she said. “I was so shocked and surprised and delighted when they called my name out for the second place award in the teacher category for my drawing of my granddaughter.”
The shock, and surprise, and delight wouldn’t end there for Peters.
She was then named the Kentucky High School Art Teacher of the Year by KyAEA.
“There are amazing teachers throughout this state. I was very humbled and overwhelmed to be selected as that teacher,” she said.
Peters does remain humble about her honors.
“What I tell everyone and what I really, sincerely, totally mean, I’m just doing what God wants me to do,” she said. “I just want to give him the glory because he’s given me ability and some talents and I pray that I’m using my abilities and talents to glorify him, and that’s what I want to keep on doing.”
She has taught at Washington County High School for 12 years now, and spent 11 years at the elementary school level prior to that. She spent one year as a resource teacher.
What separates her from the average art teacher?
“She pushes you,” Marty Wabnitz, a senior at WCHS, said. “She pushes you to do your best  and do whatever you can to do art.”
Wabnitz has had two of her classes, but isn’t currently enrolled in any of them. He’s set to take one later this year.
Peters said she loves her job, and she must. She has a busy schedule to balance.
“Very rarely do I have just a single class in the room,” she said.
In first period, she teachers a photography class. In second period, which counts as her planning period, she has three Advanced Placement (AP) art students that wouldn’t have the chance to take the class if she didn’t teach them during that period.
In third period, she teaches AP art and yearbook. She has AP 2D art students, AP 3D art students, drawing students and yearbook students all in the same class.
“So I’m teaching four classes at once,” she said. “I get a little dizzy that period. They are all pretty patient with me.”
In fourth period, she has general art and AP art students at the same time. With her last period, she has only one class.
“If I don’t multi-roster, then some of my kids don’t get chances to do some classes,” she said. “Would it be easier if I had them all at one time? Yeah, but we’re a small school. For us to be able to do that, we have to have more teachers. They would have to have more hours in the day and it just doesn’t happen, so you make it happen. I try to make success happen for my kids.”
The students are used to her multi-tasking.
“You might as well be the definition of two birds, one stone,” Juan Guajardo, a senior art student, said.
Creating her own art wasn’t part of her multi-tasking routine until recently.
“When I moved up to the high school, especially the last few years, the kids challenged me to do my own art,” she said.
Allowing her students to enter the KyAEA art show has also been a motivator.
“The only reason I put my work into the art show there is so I can put the student work in,” she said. “If you don’t put your work in, you can’t put your student work in. That challenged me also to keep doing my own work.”
She has also joined a group of artisans called the Sheltowee Artisans. They are based in Somerset.
She exhibits through the group. Through her involvement with the group, she has set up her own website to showcase her work.
Her daughter helped set her up on Facebook with a page called ‘Willing Hands,’ based on a proverb.
“I actually work in fibers a lot now,” she said. “Knitting, making blankets, scarfs, those kinds of things and exhibiting those. Those are the things I exhibit a lot. I also do commissioned work there. I do commissioned portraiture work.”
Peters always finds a way to credit others for her success.
“I wouldn’t be the high school teacher of the year without the support of and help of the entire staff,” she said. “My email box is full from my staff members wishing me congratulations.”
She also credits the administration for helping her rise to this level.
“We’re very fortunate in Washington County to have the kind of administration we do, because I hear a lot from other teachers, they don’t have that,” she said. “They don’t have that support. My administration is very proud of me. They communicated that to me. That makes me feel so wonderful.”
Earning these accolades have helped Peters cross off life goals.
“To be recognized by my peers as an artist and as an educator was awesome and it’s sort of like a dream come true,” she said. “One of my goals was to someday be able to go to national convention. National convention is always held in March so it’s always during the school year. It’s always a plane trip somewhere. It costs quite a bit of money to go, and it would cost the district because they would have to have a sub for me.”
However, as part of her achievement, Peters will get the chance to attend the national convention in 2013.
“There’s another goal that’s going to be realized with this, another special dream there,” she said.
Paul Terrell, the principal at Washington County High School, is proud of Peters.
“She gets things out of students, that sometimes it’s hard to imagine where they come up with that creativity,” he said. “I’m proud of her and for those students she’s served over the years. It’s nice to have her here in our building.”