UNA ALUMNA RECEIVES NATIONAL RETIRED ART EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
March 6, 2008
By Rebecca Walker
UNA Student Writer
FLORENCE, Ala.— When art teacher and University of North Alabama graduate Jean Schulman retired 21 years ago, she became a founding member of the National Art Education Association’s Retired Art Educators Association. Because of her diligent work for students since her retirement, she was recognized in February as the RAEA’s National Retired Educator of the Year.
Schulman received the award after being chosen as the Alabama Retired Art Teacher of the Year by the Alabama Art Education Association in December. She was then nominated at the nationwide level, where she was chosen for the national honor in February.
Schulman founded the art program at Muscle Shoals High School in 1964, and today she dedicates her free time to attending state and national art educator conferences and researching new art materials, techniques and lesson plans to bring back to MSHS.
“Over the years, she has held many positions of leadership both in-state and nationally,” said Phyllis Horne, a former AAEA teacher of the year. “Jean is classified as a retired art teacher. She is anything but retired.”
“I’ve continued doing it because I still think it’s important,” Schulman said of her continued work to aide students. “There’s rarely anyone in this area that belongs to a state or national art education association, except maybe in Huntsville. I thought it was important for the students to have that advantage. Being in Muscle Shoals, there’s not much of an advantage of knowing what’s going on in art museums, or about new art techniques and materials.”
“I can’t teach them these things if I stay home and I’m not learning them myself. I can’t very well help them like that. You can’t stay here and keep up with everything going on in the art world,” Schulman said.
Schulman’s work has made an impact on art professionals around the state.
“I’ve always been impressed with her dedication to the field of art, both as a teacher and as an artist,” said Georgine Clarke, gallery director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery. “Her history of work with students is impressive.”
One of Schulman’s former students, Michael (Nick) Nichols, who is also a UNA alumnus, is now a photographer for National Geographic magazine. When Schulman attended his “Festival of the Photograph” in Charlottesville, Va., she was publicly recognized by Nichols before an audience of 2,500.
“I have never considered photography to be my area of expertise,” Schulman said. “I felt like he was giving me a lot of credit that I didn’t deserve.”
Nichols, however, told the audience that when he was her student, she had taught him how to see.
“What an experience,” Schulman said.
Schulman is also recognized for her unique work with clay-dyed batiks, an art form she said was inspired by the colors of the North Alabama clay.
“If I had not been lucky enough to have lived in this area and seen these beautiful clays, I know that my life would be different,” she said.
Her work with clay-dyed batiks is now a part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C.
Even with her personal artistic successes, Schulman maintains that she separates working with students from her own art.
“Teaching art to students has nothing to do with your own personal work,” she said. “I just want to help local students get opportunities in art that they might not get otherwise.”
“It’s been a long travel, but I’ve enjoyed it.”