Welcome back to our blog series dedicated to highlighting some of the extraordinary educators we’ve gotten to know through their participation in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. For the past 99 years, educators have played a significant role in the success of the Awards, inspiring, encouraging, and motivating their students to dream, craft, and submit remarkable works of art and writing. Each week leading up to the national Awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in June, we’ll be spotlighting a different educator that has played such a role in their students’ lives.
This week we’d like to introduce you to Andrew ‘Andy’ Hornberger, a visual arts educator at William Alexander Middle School 51 in Brooklyn, NY.
A middle school art teacher for more than 22 years, Andy first heard about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards after speaking with colleagues who had students submit to the program’s photography and writing categories. Before learning about the Scholastic Awards, Andy had not been keen on integrating art competitions into his curricula, given that most competitions were simple, theme-based contests that not only confined students to thematic concepts, but also restricted their submissions to only 2-D work with limited scale, materials and often had a tight deadline.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, on the other hand, were a game-changer for Andy and he soon integrated them into his curricula. When asked what it was about the Awards that was different, he said:
“What Scholastic has to offer is an opportunity for students to express themselves in any media with themes that they are somehow personally invested in on a scale that makes sense for their own topic. I now have the opportunity to plan ahead with Scholastic in mind, and this often gives me enough strong work to include in other competitions often forgoing specific themes sending whatever I feel best fits what they ask for.”
Since integrating the program into his curriculum six years ago, Andy has had a great deal of success along the way.
From 2018—2020, Andy has had five students win national awards in the following categories: Drawing and Illustration, Fashion Design, and Editorial Cartoon. In addition to these national award recipients, Hornberger says that on average, out of the 100+ entries his students send into the Awards yearly, about five will win regional Gold Keys and eleven of them will earn Silver Keys. But for Andy, the act of submitting work to the program (whether or not his students win) is just as important as receiving an award. He said:
“Students who submit work to the Scholastic Art Awards are asked to be brave and put their work out to the world with the understanding that despite their efforts they may not be chosen. For many students this is not easy. That being said, my students often do apply again the following year regardless if they were successful the first time or not. I think they enjoy the challenge, and although their confidence goes up after a win, it can be equally motivating without a win by trying even harder the second time around. Sometimes it is a matter of trying a new medium, or just pushing oneself. There is also a big difference in ability level from year to year, and life experience contributes to the maturity of work as the years go on. I know that my most motivated students continue to apply throughout high school and often continue to succeed, but it truly requires a great deal of motivation and effort.”
Andy is a dedicated educator that has significantly impacted his students’ ability to confidently create and present their artwork, and his commitment to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards has not gone unnoticed. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, Andy was named Top Middle School Art Educator for the NYC region by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Looking towards the future, he is interested in becoming a juror, as well as deepening his participation with the Awards so that he can help spread the word about the program and find new teachers and schools that would be open to applying in the future.
To learn more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, please visit artandwriting.org. And be sure to return to On Our Minds next week for our next educator spotlight!
Photo in body: Courtesy of Andrew Hornberger.