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FES teacher named Tennessee Art Teacher of the Year
During the first week of school, there were students excitedly working to “escape the art room” at Farmington Elementary School. Themed around her art classroom procedures, this unique escape room completely engaged her fourth and fifth grade classes. Sitting on the carpet, explaining the lesson to her students, Rebekah Laurenzi told the students, “I thought I’d make my first day lesson a little more exciting”.

Laurenzi is full of great ideas about increasing engagement and imparting artistic qualities to her students. The Tennessee Art Education Association has now recognized her excellence in the classroom and has recently named her the Elementary Art Educator of the Year for the entire state.

“It really is no surprise at all that Mrs. Laurenzi was selected as the TAEA Teacher of the Year. Students love her class and the artwork that they produce is well beyond age and grade level expectations,” said Farmington Principal Zac Percoski on hearing the great news.  “Mrs. Laurenzi’s classroom combines instruction around art concepts, freedom of expression, and a tie in to past and current artists or periods,” he continued.

She was nominated by a colleague who teaches middle school art at Briarcrest and who met Laurenzi through the University of Memphis.  This is what she had to say in her nomination letter: “As an art education instructor, I was highly impressed by the environment of her classroom. It was beautifully organized with stimulating visuals and materials management, but I was most impressed by the way she engaged her 5th grade students in a lesson on Architecture. Using group dynamics, each student presented a portion of a project as they spoke of redesigning different aspects of their school while showing models of their proposals. I was glad that I was able to witness Rebekah’s passion for teaching art.”

Honored by the recognition, Laurenzi cites the organization of her classroom and procedures as being central to her instructional success. And, it is quite evident, as the students go around the room to discover important facets of the classroom such as the Wall of Love, in which Mrs. Laurenzi invites students who make her a drawing outside of class to hang their work. Paramount to her success, though, she focuses on tying art lessons to the students’ curriculum and/or life experiences. Relevance is key, according to the award winning art teacher.

As a professional, Laurenzi also recently published an article in one of the nation’s leading art education magazines, Art & Activities. The lesson design seamlessly weaves basic architecture into the art classroom by the use of chance and games.

Rising to GMSD fame, she was also featured on the Superintendent’s Spotlight on Excellence—highlighting a partnership between her art classes and University of Memphis’ Architecture Department. You can read more about that project in this Commercial Appeal article here, or click the video below to hear Laurenzi talk about the partnership and the project. 

Next, Laurenzi opens up her own personal art to the families of her students. Her latest venture, titled “Surfaces” will be on display at the Overton Park Gallery September 8th through October 6th. 

“Icebergs, rocks, and mountains compile their history in hidden layers that I find visually stunning. Beneath the surface, the patterns of these layers are the history of their changes. I presume they are accidental, but they appear deliberate, almost architectural. As abstract interpretations of these geological forms, my recent ink and pencil drawings explore the relationships between structure and spontaneity, and between nature and design. In the mixed media pieces, I have pursued similar themes, with the use of different materials and methods,” Laurenzi shares in a statement on the gallery’s website.

After that, she will play a role in the TAEA state conference in October where she will both receive her Teacher of the Year Award and perform an art demonstration for her colleagues.

“We are so lucky to have such a talented, dedicated art teacher here at Farmington,” said her Principal Zac Percoski.