Reeds Ferry teacher named NH Art Educator of the Year

The New Hampshire Art Educators’ Association selection committee announced that the 2015-16 Art Educator of the Year is Mary Beth Donovan-Olson, of Reeds Ferry Elementary School in Merrimack.

Donovan-Olson submitted a portfolio to provide the Art Awards Committee with evidence of excellence, along with many wonderful letters of support.

Donovan-Olson was formally recognized by the NHAEA at its fall conference on Oct. 17 at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. She will represent the state as New Hampshire Outstanding Art Educator at the National Art Education Association Conference in March in Chicago.

Donovan-Olson is described by her administration as a calm, quiet but highly influential teacher who encourages her young students to find their expressive voice. Her deep commitment to her students is evident; she has the power to find the artist and ability of every student.

Kimberly Yarlott, her principal, describes Donovan-Olson this way: "While this may be characteristic of many art teachers, Mrs. Donovan-Olson’s ability to reach children’s inner cores, and inspire them to express themselves through art, is therapeutic and transformational."

As a professional and humanitarian, Donovan-Olson spent four years in Botswana, Africa. Her role there as a teacher-trainer brought her into the community and allowed her to work directly with students. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she gave selflessly to this developing community.

"This is demonstrative of Mary Beth’s overall character," Yarlott said.

The Reeds Ferry hallways are filled with wonderful art from her students. She gives much thought to what she teaches and how she teaches it. Her annual Student Art Show is one of this highlights of the school year, attended by parents, students and guests from the community.

As one of her fourth-grade students said, "The members of the Art Club portray artists at the festival. We had so much fun finding out about our artist and what kind of art they made."

Another student said, "Mrs. Donovan-Olson has inspired me to do what I did not know I was capable of doing. When I grow up, I want to be an art teacher just like her. I will be happy to tell my students that someone at their school could inspire them just like my teacher inspired me. I am so lucky to have a teacher like her."