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Debi West (March)West
Hi! I’m Debi West and I’ve been teaching children through the visual arts for 24 years in Gwinnett County Georgia. Art Education is my passion, it’s my hobby and it’s my favorite thing to do. I adore kids, ALL kids, in fact I taught at the elementary level for 14 years opening 3 new schools in the county and starting up new visual art programs that were theme-based in nature. 10 years ago I moved to the secondary level where I am now the Department Chair at North Gwinnett High School and I have the honor of teaching 185 amazing kiddos this year! Click "Go" to read full bio.

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« March is Youth Art Month | Main | Youth Art Month in Georgia! »

March 08, 2017

Youth Art Month - Art at its’ BEST!

From: Debi West

Our Youth Art Month activities are underway here at North Gwinnett High School!  We’ve been busy creating art, and my National Art Honor Society students have been extra busy planning our YAM community exhibit where we are working with the F.U.N Club (a non-profit that works with special needs adults to give them community opportunities) and promoting a concert complete with an art auction! 

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As I’m working with my students this year, I can’t help but reminisce over past YAM activities I’ve done and how I got so involved with this wonderful event. After my first year of figuring out what this event was all about, I realized it could be as big or small as the teacher wants it to be. For example, my first year I created a large YAM box that my students could walk through to experience the different textures of art!  The following year I held a large exhibit showcasing every student’s art (over 1000!) and invited the community to come and enjoy the show. By my 4th year I was so excited about YAM and how it was such a powerful advocacy tool that I was asked by my state association to come on board as the state YAM chair, a job that eventually propelled me into leadership opportunities I could never have imagined. In addition to planning my school YAM activities, I was now charged with planning a state theme, state activities and a YAM booth at our state conference…and I was ready for the challenge!

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Our theme for the 1996-1997 school year was “Art Makes the World Go Round” which was the Council for Art Education’s national theme. I hosted a YAM booth at our conference that year in Macon sharing with members how they could join in the state fun and make a “deliciously successful YAM sandwich” complete with a brown bag lunch bag full of supplies including proclamation and endorsement sheets for their legislators, administrators, mayors and community VIPS to fill out, an idea sheet for fun and easy activities, bumper stickers to proclaim loudly YAM in Georgia and water bottles with our student created logo printed proudly on the front. It was a HUGE success and in April, as I started to collect info from teachers from across the state, I was amazed at the activities that had transpired! From our state Capitol Art Exhibit (which is our annual YAM kick-off event in mid-February), to  finding our state YAM artist and educator, to local art shows, art exchanges, student/parent art nights, we even had the Governor sign our official state YAM proclamation! I hired a newspaper clipping company and the articles came pouring in. As the state YAM chair I had the task of compiling all of this wonderful information and putting it into our state scrapbook for judging and imagine my excitement when we found out that we were the National Winners! Our Georgia art teachers didn’t disappoint and their submissions took our scrapbook to the next level with pictures, articles, activities and data that proved that Youth Art Month works to advocate and propel the importance of a visual art education for every child! I was asked to attend the NAEA convention that next spring to present on “How to Get In-Kind Funding for your State YAM Programs” and my life was forever changed. That was the year that the NAEA became a huge part of my life! That was the year that I met some of the most amazing art educators that have become dear friends for life – that was the year that my teaching went to the next level! 

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I had YAM in my soul and it fuels me to this day – Art at its’ BEST!

-DW

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