KEARNEY–Local art teacher makes it her priority to challenge students not just in the classroom, but in all areas of their lives. As a result, Allison Varah has been named the Nebraska K-12 Art Educator of the Year through the Nebraska Art Teachers Association (NATA).
Varah is nine years into her career as an art teacher and has taught at Litchfield for the last seven years. She said it was an honor to receive the award during the Nebraska Art Teachers Conference held in Kearney over the weekend.
“I was so honored that my parents came and my husband came. My parents have always been awesome supporters. It was neat to have my husband and my parents there and my really good friend Kalla Sawyer from Ansley. It just made me feel really special that everyone was there supporting me,” Varah said.
To be recognized as the Nebraska K-12 Art Educator of the Year, the work of Varah’s students was considered as well as her personal artwork outside of the classroom, involvement in NATA, and the submission of recommendation letters.
With a genuine passion for the arts and her students, Varah believes in promoting that they are alive and well throughout small schools in Nebraska. “To me it all comes back to advocacy, I know that when push comes to shove, art is not a core class. That’s always a motivator to me to do my best because I want to prove to the community, the school board, and the administrators that art is important, it’s relevant, it’s a value to the school,” Varah said.
Allison Varah says that receiving the award has prompted her to hold herself to the highest level of quality. She aims to make art interesting, innovative, and helpful for her students as they move forward in life.
“We teach the creative problem solving method and challenge students to find solutions–multiple solutions–and then come back and find the best one. We are just trying to continually challenge them hopefully so it reaches into other classes,” Varah said.
Nebraska Art Teachers Association board representative Jan Jones says Mrs. Varah is not simply an artist who is teaching, but also a teaching artist.
“Her students do so well with their talents. She’s so good about getting them out there to not only be recognized but to build their confidence and their belief in themselves in that field and value the arts for so much more than just a pretty picture but how they integrate it into their lives,” Jones said.
Jones said Varah understands the academic needs of her students and caters the curriculum to their individual efforts and energy.
“She is just so incredibly supportive of her students and her desire to let them succeed,” Jones said.