MU alum Amanda Van Laar at Phoenix Academy.

Amanda Van Laar ’13, always strives to expand ways in which art is taught to students in hopes of sparking creativity in all who enter her classroom at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, the Millersville University (MU) art education alum had no idea that this passion for teaching art would win her a prestigious award.

As the National Teacher of the Year Award from Camelot Education, Van Laar embodies Camelot’s mission of bettering the academic and social success of its students.

“During my senior year at MU, Dr. Leslie Gates opened my eyes to how much of an impact we as art educators can make on our students through the creation and exploration of art. She showed that art is more than just a formal way of creating, but a vessel for our students to learn through choice-base instruction, problem solving, as well as self-expression. It was then, that my teaching philosophy started shifting in the direction that it is in now,” said Van Laar.

Intently focused on building a student’s confidence in this subject, Van Laar has employed unique strategies to immerse them in the experience and emotion of art, rather than just learning techniques. This angle towards teaching this subject has produced successful results, as students have responded positively towards her approach.

“Art in my classroom is the vessel for the voices of my students to be heard [which is why] every step is about building a student’s confidence,” said Van Laar.

This gradual confidence starts with abstract drawings, which further inspire students to pursue reality-based art. Ultimately Van Laar’s goal is to spark original ideas that students can truly make their own. As Van Laar continues to strive toward helping students to believe in themselves and their own abilities, it is evident that her love for this subject will continue to serve as a source of encouragement in both her personal and professional life.

For more information on this year’s National Teacher of the Year Award from Camelot Education, please visit: https://cameloteducation.org/phoenix-academys-teacher-of-the-year/

For more information on MU’s art education program, please visit: https://www.millersville.edu/programs/art-education.php

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