Leslie Koelsch, the art teacher for and elementary schools, has been named the 2012 Elementary Art Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Art Education Association (OAEA).
“It was a little surreal,” Koelsch said about the moment when she first learned she won the award a few weeks ago.
Koelsch has been teaching art for 20 years; 15 of those in Avon Lake. She spends the bulk of her time at Redwood Elementary School with one day a week dedicated to teaching at Westview. She earned the award in part due to past achievements in the field and her innovative approach.
“I have always been very active in my field,” Koelsch said. “I am always searching for new ideas, techniques and mediums to keep my students on the cutting edge of art education.”
Redwood principal T.J. Ebert, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Koelsch, said the teacher is ahead of the curve. This year, his first year working directly alongside Koelsch, he noticed the art teacher’s agenda is impressive for the age level at which she is instructing.
“Being able to see this year what she does is incredible,” he said.
Ebert said he was impressed at what she teaches at the youngest grade levels.
“This is the elementary level and she teaches ceramics, uses a kiln and does cut-glass projects. When she told me, I’m thinking about the safety issues, but we’ve never had a problem.”
Koelsch said she is constantly writing grants to obtain materials and technologies to use with her students.
“In 2005 when interactive ‘smart boards’ just hit the education market I saw the technology at a conference and instantly knew it would strengthen my teaching, so I wrote a grant and had a board installed,” Koelsch said. "It was the first one installed in the district.”
She also wrote a grant and began teaching digital photography. Recently, Koelsch was awarded the Martha Holden Jennings grant and added glass fusing to the schools' art program.
Koelsch has been honored for her work on several occasions. She also won the Northeast Ohio Art Educator of the year (regional award) and was previously named as a Clearview High Schools Distinguished Alumni.
She has a long history of accomplishments in the field including being a 2005 Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship recipient that allowed her to participate in a three-week study program in Japan.
Outside the classroom
Her work in the education field extends beyond her Redwood and Westview classrooms.
“Leslie is also (the teachers) union rep, so I know her through that and she has all of that responsibility also,” Ebert said of Koelsch, who has been president of the Avon Lake Education Association since 2008.
Koelsch has been active in the OAEA, a statewide professional organization that is comprised of art teachers from all nine regions of the state, acting as a Conference Registrar, Young People's Art Exhibition state chairperson (2007- 2010), a Convention Workshop presenter and convention planning committee.
Locally, she has served five years as a building technology coordinator, the Lorain County Cooperative Purchasing, bid selection committee and the chairperson for the Avon Lake City Schools elementary visual art show.
After earning the award, Koelsch was honored by staff members at Redwood. She will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony/dinner at the fall OAEA conference.