Art Educator of the Year

HHHS art teacher wins honor
By: Todd Martin
Art teacher Julie Smith loves to paint with oils and acrylics and to sculpt and recently has taken up stained glass.
But, her creative talents are merely the canvass for her real passion.
“My passion is for the classroom,” she said, “for the students. I really like the relationship with students.”
The Harker Heights High School visual arts teacher is the 2019 Senior High School Art Educator of the Year for the Texas Art Education Association.
A high school art teacher in another school district nominated her in the summer. Smith, now in her 23rd year teaching, received the surprise announcement a month ago.
“I’m very surprised, but really we just do our job,” she said, pointing out examples of student artwork on display in her classroom, a space clearly set up for the continuous projects she oversees in first- through fourth-year drawing, painting and sculpting classes.
“It’s a nice compliment,” she acknowledged. “I do it because of the kids.”
Typically, she said, students are ready to dive into difficult art when they see their determined teacher will not let them off easy. She tells them what they need to fix and usually, they do it.
Also, Smith believes in a holistic approach to education. “It’s about their attitude, their behavior, their artwork, their approach,” she said.
“I want them to want to be in school and in my class. I rarely have a discipline problem. I want them to get happiness here.”
The versatile teacher began her career teaching in Missouri at the junior high level, where she taught art and coached volleyball and track.
After marrying a soldier, she continued to teach at elementary schools in Georgia and in 2004 began teaching at Harker Heights High School, where she has remained.
“I like to bring forth an energy and inspiration to teachers to renew and revitalize our purpose for teaching,” she said in a written biography.
In addition to her teaching, artwork and a children’s entertainment business, Smith is director of the Visual Arts Scholastic Event for Region 12, overseeing an annual high school art contest the past five years.
Smith is set to receive the state art educator award during a conference in November in Galveston.