September 12, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Jo-Ann VanReeuwyk has been recognized as the MAEA Higher Ed Teacher of the Year.

One of Jo-Ann Van Reeuwyk’s first goals when she joined Calvin’s art faculty in 2001 was to help the college to achieve a K-12 Art Education Program Certification from the State of Michigan. The certification required a complete overhaul of the college’s art education program, and Calvin was the first college in Michigan to achieve the new status.

Eleven years later, Van Reeuwyk herself has been recognized as the 2013 Michigan Art Education Association Higher Ed Teacher of the Year. “I was surprised to be nominated, and I was surprised to get it,” she said, “because I know my competition.”

Chosen by peers

The Higher Ed Teacher of the Year award recognizes excellence in art education both for the individual and for the association. Van Reeuwyk was honored by her association peers for all of the aspects of her work in developing Calvin’s art education program: artistic production, program development, publications, leadership roles, “and the real biggie—teaching,” she said.

Calvin’s art education program requires students complete a comprehensive major in art and education. They learn both the philosophy and methodology of art education and more, said Van Reeuwyk. “They take as many studio classes as a bachelor in art does.” Soon after taking over the program, she began building service-learning into it. Art education majors now work at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Grandville Arts Academy as part of their regular course of study. They also volunteer at schools where teachers have requested help with teaching art.

“An art education student will have a great love of working with kids,” VanReeuwyk said. “They’re people who are interested in the heart and soul of their students.”

Making room for art

Van Reeuwyk believes that teaching art is a way to foster higher-level thinking skills in students of any age. She claims her students know her by her mantra: “You can’t be a whole person unless you incorporate the arts into your life in some way.”

A native of Canada, Van Reeuwyk graduated Calvin in 1983. She earned master’s degree in art education at Simon Fraser University in 1989 and the equivalent of an MFA during her years of teaching. She has 20 years of experience in teaching K–12 art education. She is also a prolific artist who specializes in fiber vessels. Her work has been featured in many exbibitions, including the international collaboration Charis: Crossing Boundaries.

“Jo-Ann's award is well-deserved,” said Mark Williams, Calvin’s dean for the arts, languages and education. “She is a first-rate pedagogue whose heart is centered on her students … . It is wonderful that the MAEA has recognized her strengths and talents as well.”

VanReeuwyk will accept her award at a ceremony held on October 27  in Traverse City. She’ll take that opportunity to reflect on what she enjoys most about teaching. “For me, it’s a two-way street,” she said. “I get just as much from my students as they get from me … They energize me. I think that’s what I’ll be talking about.”

Recent stories