- Southwestern Central School District
Brown Named Region 1 Art Educator of the Year
Olean native Jenny Brown has spent her entire 26-year teaching career at Southwestern Central Schools, creatively influencing students and colleagues while making significant contributions to the district art curriculum.
Her commitment was recognized when Brown was selected Region 1 Art Educator of the Year for 2022 by The New York State Art Teachers Association – a prestigious honor for which she was nominated by her colleagues. Fellow members from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties feted her at a joyous event in Hamburg in July, where she donned a traditional flower crown and celebrated with fellow NYSATA members.
“Jenny is one of our most respected and longest-serving educators at the high school,” says Principal Scott Cooper. “She prioritizes expanding her own skills, sharing her expertise and inspiring her students and colleagues alike. It has been wonderfully satisfying as an administrator to watch Jenny continue to pursue her lifelong passion for art and teaching.”
Brown says she loves attending the NYSATA annual summer conference in the Adirondacks and says the camaraderie and creativity of the group are instrumental to her success.
"Everyone has a story about a teacher who influenced them," says NYSATA President Michelle Schroeder. "My guess is that Jenny Brown has more than a few who could say she is a game-changer."
“I’m really honored – NYSATA rejuvenated my love of art and teaching,” says Brown.
At Southwestern High, Brown teaches studio art, intro to drawing/painting, advanced drawing/painting, creative arts, ceramics/sculpture and AP art – and enrollment is always at maximum capacity. She builds connections with students and encourages them to express themselves while promoting their creative expression.
Brown has a reputation for taking full advantage of any opportunity to learn new things and make new connections. One fairly recent skill she honed is macrame, a craft with a long history, which has been a hit with students.
“The kids loved it,” she says, noting that several students took their carefully designed pieces home to display.
She is also chair of the district Art Department, which comprises fellow teachers Amanda Laurin, Tina Clark, and Renee Mitchener, who has worked closely with Brown since 2008, collaborating on multiple projects and events.
“Jenny has always treated the teachers within her department as equals, looking for input and helping to solve any challenge that presents itself, as if it mattered just as much to her,” says Mitchener.
Highlights of Brown’s 2021-2022 academic year include:
• Hosting a NYSATA professional development workshop on needle felting with art teachers from Region 1. She gathered a group of educators from Western New York spent a frigid day in March 2022 crafting together in her classroom.
• Piloting the Individual Arts Assessment Pathway, which offers arts students a graduation route to prepare them for future professional and educational experiences and opportunities in the arts.
• Receiving two $500 grants: One personal art grant from the Chautauqua County Arts Appeal and a NYSATA grant to enhance classroom instruction and share with other art educators.
• Helping the school musical with set design and production.
Another career bright spot was the 2022 Women’s Empowerment Draft to recognize 31 influential women during Women’s History Month in March 2022. Brown and more than two dozen Trojans – art students and Allies for Diversity Club members – worked to honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender American activist, and promote women’s advocacy. Their shared art piece is now on permanent display on campus.
“We love seeing our students joyfully engage in creative collaborations as a way to open conversations about serious subjects and issues,” says Superintendent Maureen Donahue, noting that the Empowerment Draft aligns with the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “Jenny has been instrumental in facilitating this progress.”
“Jenny lives and breathes art and education, making the most of her time in both arenas. She truly cares for those entrusted to her classroom, for her colleagues, and for her community,” says Mitchener. “If you were to walk into her classroom any time of day, you would always see a student finding reprieve from their day, taking a chance to make their artwork better, or just finding a home with a teacher they trust.”
"Jenny's talent, kindness and overall spirit are what make us privileged to be in her company," says Schroeder. "Her contributions for NYSATA are numerous. She is valued as an educator, mentor and artist."
In her spare time, Brown enjoys spending time with her husband, Adam, also a SWCS teacher, and their daughter, Joslyn, a junior. In 2020, she began teaching painting at Jamestown Community College and has no plan to push pause on expanding her creativity. Lately, she’s been toying with the idea of exploring resin pouring, which has many artistic uses including jewelry-making.
“Becoming a better artist is a learned skill and dedication is the key,” says Brown. “Art engages higher learning skills and is therapy for your soul.”