Bronx visual art teacher wins Big Apple Award, says she shares the award with her students
A visual art teacher at a Bronx school is being recognized by the DOE as a Big Apple Award winner, creating a classroom that cultivates more than just artists.
Laura Blau was fresh out of grad school when she started at Millennium Art Academy in the Bronx 11 years ago.
It was then, even starting as a substitute teacher, that she wanted her class to be more than just class for students.
“I instinctively, since day one, made the classroom a place where students wanted to be engaged and involved,” says Blau.
Blau says the students stay engaged with hands on projects, reflection writing and discussions.
“One of my major strategies is to get students to see connections between art and everything else, it's not a class, it's not a vacuum, it’s not a box to be checked off, it's a way of thinking, it's a way of living,” says Blau.
Blau was one of 19 New York City teachers given a Big Apple Award this year by the Department of Education. The award celebrates teachers who go above and beyond.
“The fact that my students can have their work in competitions, which is a huge part of my curriculum, they have their work hanging alongside other students from specialized high schools from other boroughs that and to have that motivation even in remote learning. That's what the award is recognizing for me, so the award is just as much for my students past and present than it is for me,” says Blau.
Several of her students have earned city, state and national awards with their work on the walls of The Met and the U.S. Capitol, and many have not only become artists, but teachers.
“That to me is the ultimate measure of being highly affective or having an impact and without that, I mean, that’s my purpose, I can't have it any other way. It's about finding ways that the students can come back and give back to their community and to empower themselves,” says Blau.
Blau is excited for the day they'll be back in the classroom together to continue learning and creating together.
Whenever students go back to school after the pandemic, Blau says it'll be a brand-new state of the art classroom thanks to a grant she applied for several years ago and finally got the items and furniture needed right before school shut down.