Teacher awarded fellowship from National Gallery of Art

Published 10:24 pm Friday, June 28, 2019

Summers are not what they used to be for teachers. Many will tell you that, unfortunately, they’re not taking a two-month work hiatus — many have second jobs they begin as soon as school is out.

And for others, like Hillary Zimmerman, it’s a time for continuing their own education. She will head to Washington, D.C. in July to take part in a special teacher institute focusing on fine art and critical thinking.

Zimmerman, an art teacher for Woodlawn Elementary School, was awarded a fellowship through the National Gallery of Art, offering $1,000 to support her attendance to the institute.

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She says this is the first fellowship she’s applied for.

“An art teacher from another school district told me about her experience when she attended the teacher institute,” Zimmerman says. The teacher told her it was “very inspirational to work exclusively with art teachers as such a high level.”

Zimmerman will spend a week training at the National Gallery of Art, including trips to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the opera and a film screening.

All priceless experiences, Zimmerman says, but what she is most excited about is collaborating with teachers from across the country.

“That is what is so neat about this experience. The program is set up so that teachers from all the geographical areas are represented in the teacher institute.”

She says she’s attended a lot of conferences and trainings inside Kentucky, which have all been very beneficial. “With this training, however, I’ll get to collaborate with teachers outside of the state. That’s the most exhilarating part — I’ll get to see how Kentucky measures up,” Zimmerman says.

Furthering her education is invaluable, she says. “Because I am so enthralled by all things related to art — art history, art processes, everything … I love studying about art. I really want my knowledge and insight to benefit my students.”

The fellowship requires Zimmerman to complete a two-page written report by mid-August, summarizing the curriculum applications she anticipates making in her school as a direct result of attending the institute, including teaching outcomes and how she plans to “spread the impact” of her experience.

“So, upon returning from the teacher institute, I plan to share what I learned with my colleagues,” she says.

Zimmerman is also instructor for the Drama Club, and has penned plays herself that her students have acted in.

“I believe it’s important for all children to experience many different avenues of interest, including dramatic arts, to be a well-rounded person,” Zimmerman says. She says it helps children feel more self-secure, enhancing their quality of life.

The drama club sponsor is always a one-year contract, she says, so she plans on reapplying for the role in the fall.

Zimmerman has been an art teacher for six years, four of those at Woodlawn, but has been an educator for 11 years.

Art is important to her for one simple reason, she says: “We all have our own niche. For some, it’s sports. For others, it’s the arts. When we are operating within our niche, we can be our best selves and be with the people who share common interests.”

She says it gives students a sense of belonging and self-confidence, when they are at rehearsal or performing. And that self-confidence can transfer to all areas of their lives, she says — “even into subjects or activities that they do not naturally gravitate toward or feel they do well in.”

Zimmerman, who also performs in local community theater, says she’s met adult actors who told her they never had the opportunity to act as a child.

“Now that they have found acting, they have described it as finding ‘their people.’ I want my students to find their people now.”