Art teacher Molly Conway was named the Nebraska Art Teachers Association (NATA) 2022 Secondary Art Educator of the Year in September.
Conway says she discovered her love of art in first grade when her teacher selected her drawing to hang in the hall.
The Omaha native started her career in 2011, teaching art at Christ the King Elementary School. She joined the faculty of Skutt Catholic eight years ago.
Although she also teaches Pottery, Fundamentals of Crafting, and Stained Glass classes, Conway says Art Foundations remains her favorite to teach.
“I love teaching Art Foundations because we cover such a wide variety of subjects and mediums, and there are so many different viewpoints and experiences among the students,” she said.
“I get to work with students taking their first art class ever, as well as students who have a lifetime of experience, and every point in between, all in the same space,” she continued.
“They collaborate and inspire each other in ways that often surprise and delight me, and this in turn challenges me to be a better teacher.”
As an artist, Conway jumps from one medium to another.
“I love exploring the creative potential of anything I can get my hands on,” she said.
Conway occasionally accepts commissions, resulting in many drawings and stained glass pieces on display in private homes. She is currently working on a large stained glass set for a client’s front entryway.
Conway earned a bachelors of arts in studio arts degree from the University of Nebraska Omaha, and a masters of art education from the University of Nebraska Kearney.
Nebraska Art Teachers Association is a professional organization whose mission is to advocate for and advance quality art education in Nebraska. Each year NATA recognizes outstanding contributions to student learning, leadership in curriculum development in local school districts and communities, and participation in professional endeavors on state and/or national levels. The NATA Fall Conference Awards Ceremony was held on October 7.
First, young artists need to have a proper understanding of what it means to be artistic. Many judge their ability based on drawing skills alone, but really the depth of thought, willingness to learn, and dedication to the artistic process is what makes an artist. Technical skills will develop with practice if these mindsets exist. Students should never judge themselves by comparing their work to that of their peers, because everyone has a different background. Each individual has their own style to discover and develop; their own potential to meet and exceed!
Second, beginners have not had the opportunity to try out many different types of art media yet. Some students really click with painting or drawing or printmaking. Others find a spark when they get their hands on clay or metal or a nice camera.
In my classroom, positive connections are top priority. Students must first feel safe and comfortable with each other before they can open up to take risks with their artwork. I promote collaboration and creative problem solving, encouraging students to positively give and openly receive constructive criticism. I try very hard to balance teacher-led, discipline-based art instruction with student-centered and project-based curriculum. This means that, while some art activities are designed for academic and technical practice, those build into students’ own creative, individualized artworks.
My main hope for my students is that they will find value in the act of creation, and keep balance in their lives by understanding and appreciating the art of others, seeking to learn more about art that interests and challenges them, and continuing to create their own artwork in the future.