The award honors educators who create a culture for the arts to flourish; Wayne called the ‘consummate art teacher’
Video and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
It was supposed to be a typical after-school staff meeting at King Elementary Wednesday.
Instead, teacher Laura Wayne learned she was named the University Musical Society (UMS) and the DTE Energy Foundation’s 2021 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year for her work at King as well as at A2V+ Virtual Academy.
AAPS Fine Arts Coordinator Robin Bailey calls Wayne the consummate art teacher.
“Laura is a leader in arts innovation,” said Bailey. “She flawlessly incorporates the classroom curriculum and aligns it with her art curriculum and creates these fabulous projects for kids to connect with what’s happening in the classroom to their art world.”
The award recognizes and celebrates educators who value the importance of arts education and create a culture for the arts to flourish in their school communities. A teacher at King Elementary and—during the 2020-21 school year—A2V+ Virtual Academy, Wayne was nominated through a public nomination process.
The DTE Energy Foundation sponsors the award as part of its annual grant support for UMS Youth Education Programs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award ceremony was postponed to the spring of 2022.
Described by colleagues as an open-minded, calm, and inclusive presence who truly believes in her students’ creativity, Wayne implements a teaching philosophy that centers on art and exploration. When asked about her philosophy, Wayne said, “I try to provide a creative, safe, and compassionate environment. I trust what my students can do. There are no mistakes, only learning.”
Wayne began her career 30 years ago in California, and has earned master’s degrees in fine arts, teaching, and special education.
She’s taught at King Elementary for 13 years, and last year taught at A2V+Virtual Academy.
Terri Park, University Musical Society’s Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement, noted that this is the fourth time Wayne had been nominated for the award and that no one deserves it more.
“You only have to walk through the hallways here at King Elementary School to see the incredible artwork that lines the hallways like a beautiful museum gallery,” said Park. “Over the years, Ms. Wayne has also been part of the UMS Professional Learning Community, which pairs arts specialists with classroom teachers in order to bring more arts-integrated approaches into the classroom. And she recently participated in our advisory group centered around the needs of teachers during the pandemic by creating digital and virtual resources for the classroom, and also attending numerous UMS professional development workshops and school day performances.”
Integrating the arts into the curriculum and building community with her students is Wayne’s life work, she says.
Principal Koren Clinkscale admires Wayne’s wide range of talent.
“And I appreciate how Laura brings that unique talent for understanding art into the classrooms with each individual student,” she said.
Assistant Principal Samantha Cucu added: “I can tell she’s built unique relationships with each student. They know her. She knows them, and they each care about each other.”
In the nomination process, Wayne was lauded for her Edmund Fitzgerald project, in which third-grade students researched the details of the ship The Edmund Fitzgerald; illustrated posters with diagrams, photographs, and information; painted pictures of the ship; and presented their work to the school and family community.
During the 2020-21 school year, as teachers everywhere look for innovative ways to build community
over screens, Wayne continually created intricate, exciting, and engaging ways for students to
connect through art. When the annual fifth grade trip to Space Camp was canceled due to COVID-19,
she facilitated the re-allocation of those funds towards a commemorative bench that she
painted, incorporating a design from every student, and placed on the school playground.
Her philosophy and work with students inspire faculty and administrators in her school and beyond to emulate her approach to art-centered lessons.
During the 2020-21 school year, as teachers everywhere look for innovative ways to build community over screens, Wayne continually created intricate, exciting, and engaging ways for students to connect through art. When the annual fifth grade trip to Space Camp was canceled due to COVID-19, she facilitated the re-allocation of those funds towards a commemorative bench that she painted, incorporating a design from every student, and placed on the school playground.
As part of the award—for which there were 20 applicants—UMS will provide complimentary tickets and transportation for Wayne to bring one class to a UMS School Day Performance next season, additional complimentary tickets to a mainstage UMS performance, and a $200 award honorarium. UMS will also work with Wayne to bring a UMS touring artist to King Elementary for a class visit or school assembly.
“UMS is proud of its service to educators across Southeast Michigan who make arts-integrated learning a priority in the classroom,” said UMS Vice President of Education and Community Engagement Cayenne Harris. “We are thrilled that this year’s Educator of the Year distinction will go to Laura Wayne who truly exemplifies the spirit of the award.”
The DTE Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of DTE Energy, continuing the legacy of community support and involvement of its electric and natural gas utilities, which serve 2.2 million electric customers and 1.3 million natural gas customers in Michigan. In 2018, the DTE Energy Foundation awarded hundreds of grants to nonprofits throughout the company’s service territories.
Visit DTEFoundation.com for more information on the Foundation’s work across the state.