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 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 Jill Palumbo, a visual arts educator at Patrick Henry High School, in Ashland, VA. Jill has been teaching high school art classes for the past 12 years. Prior to this role, she taught continuing education at the Rhode Island School of Design for 8 years.
Jill first came discovered the Awards when she was a teen herself. Jill actually participated in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and received a Gold Key for her art portfolio, which consisted of her photography! When asked about her experience receiving an award as a teen and how it impacted her, Jill said:
“I learned so much as a student regarding the work it takes to put yourself out there. Having earned a Gold Key in the Awards solidified my decision to major in fine arts in college, where I earned two BFAs in studio art and photography, and later a Master’s degree in Art Education.”
Upon arrival at her current school, where Jill teaches Photo 1, 2, AP2D, Advanced Art classes, and International Baccalaureate art, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards weren’t something students knew about or even submitted to frequently. After noticing this, Jill made it a personal goal to encourage student submissions into her curriculum because of the longstanding reputation that the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards embodies.
As an alumni of the program, Jill understands how the process of putting one’s work out into competitions can be a bit daunting. That’s why she’s vowed to make sure to be as supportive and as wholly available for her students when they are preparing and submitting works into the Awards.
Creating an environment of openness and acceptance, Jill continuously encourages her students to submit to the Awards every year, referring to the competition as the “superbowl of art.” Her passion for the program and her effectiveness in encouraging students, in and outside of her art classes, to apply has earned her a reputation of being the ‘go-to’ person. If students are interested in the Awards, Jill is the person to see.
When asked how she approaches introducing students to the Awards, she said:
“I take a coaching mentality and help my students feel empowered to submit work. Over the years I have developed a culture of competition within the arts department and my students have come to recognize that I am “that teacher” that says ‘It is time! Time for [the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards]!’”
Jill wholeheartedly believes that the Awards are a great way for students to find validation and inspiration within their artistic journeys and believes that every student deserves the opportunity to compete. She advocates for her students in many ways, including: finding community sponsors to cover fees, fundraising, and even paying for entry fees herself when needed.
Over the last eight years, under her support and encouragement, Jill has had many of her students earn various regional Gold and Silver Keys, honorable mentions, two National Silver Medals, and even an American Visions Nominee Award.
Even after her students receive recognition from the program, Jill goes above and beyond to help them receive additional recognition by contacting local media, promoting students’ winning-works on various social platforms, and sending widespread emails to alert the community of their accolades. As a proud educator, Jill truly wants to give her students the credit and visibility they deserve.
Regardless if they earn awards or titles, Jill hopes that her students continue to hone craft, continue to make work, and ultimately come to understand that no matter the outcome, they are still worthy of the chance to compete and share their creations with the world.
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 last educator spotlight!
All photos in body: Courtesy of Jill Palumbo.