Shawnee Dispatch

Clear Creek educator named finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year

Clear Creek Elementary School art teacher Megan Clark was recently named a finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year. Enlarge photo

October 2, 2018

In Megan Clark’s elementary school art classroom, learning goes beyond a paintbrush.

Calculating symmetry and balance, her students draw subjects to scale. Observing sculptures, they use their math skills to figure out ratios and proportions. During animation lessons, they discover how technology brings art to life on a screen. Without leaving their seats, they’re transported to ancient caves or a museum halfway across the world, thanks to virtual tours online. History comes to life as they’re taught the stories of artistic geniuses, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Picasso.

“It’s important for students to realize art is more than just art—it involves math, science, engineering, technology and history,,” said Clark. “Knowledge is interconnected.”

Her interdisciplinary approach has not gone unnoticed.

Clark, the art teacher for Clear Creek Elementary School, was recently named one of eight finalists for Kansas Teacher of the Year, a program honoring teachers who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance and the teaching profession.

When it was announced she was a regional winner to move forward in the state competition, Clark admitted she was shocked.

“I was kind of blown away and I was super honored,” she said. “This program showcases the great things happening in education and the innovation happening in classrooms across the country. There are a lot of passionate educators who make an impact and deserve to win.”

The Kansas Teacher of the Year winner will be announced during an awards banquet on Nov. 17 in Wichita.

Clark, who has been teaching at Clear Creek for the past 15 years, is a fourth-generation educator.

Her great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Iowa, her grandmother was a home economics teacher at a school for troubled boys and her mom was a gifted teacher. Her brother and sister-in-law are also teachers in Johnson County.

She credits her mom and grandmother for igniting her passion for education.

“Their dedication to their careers helped shape my philosophies,” she said. “It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding. They taught me there are hard days, but they’re worth it.”

Growing up, she loved art, so becoming an art teacher was the perfect way to combine her two passions, she added.

The Olathe mother-of-two is proud to be part of the Clear Creek community in western Shawnee.

She’s thrilled when she bumps into former students while out running errands, or when they show up unexpectedly to visit at Clear Creek.

And while she’s taught some incredible natural artists in her classroom, she finds the ones who are finding their voice to be equally inspiring.

“My proudest moments are when kids grow and change and see talent they didn’t realize before,” she said. “Even if most of these students don’t pursue a career in art or even do it as a hobby, part of my job is to help them see value in art and appreciate it.”

Clark aims to help her students understand the visual world around them and see how art impacts them in every aspect.

“Art exists in places you don’t expect—from the graphic design on packaging at the grocery store to the clothing you wear,” she said. “Not all artists are starving painters. We’re kind of planting the seeds so (students) are aware there are nontraditional art careers they can pursue.”

She also hopes to inspire life-lessons, such as fixing mistakes and shaping reaction to adversity.

“Not all mistakes are a disaster,” she said. “You have to see the possibility.”

As she continues her teaching career, Clark said her goal is to always grow as an educator and strive to meet the needs of her students individually.

After all, she said, she learns just as much from her students as they do from her.

“I have a heart for kids and I love that every day in my job is different,” she said. “It’s a fun and unique challenge.”

Shawnee resident Cathy Sheridan was also honored at the regional Kansas Teacher of the Year banquet earlier this month. See her story here.

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