Anna Davis had a big day Friday.
She received a master's degree from Brigham Young University and then went to a banquet in Salt Lake City where she was honored with the prestigious Beverly Taylor Sorenson Legacy Award for art education. She has also been named the Utah Art Educator of the Year, covering all grade levels.
The teacher at Timpanogos High said she loves art and loves teaching art.
"The people that changed my life have been my teachers," she said. "I wanted to change the world, so I would teach, too."
She credited Sharron Allsop-Day at American Fork High School for much of that change.
"She changed my life," Davis said. "She is amazing."
And Davis has been changing her students' lives. Her master's thesis was creating a game for Advanced Placement art history.
"I have been trying to come up with unique ways to teach," she said. "You don't want to just lecture every day.
"You try to connect kids to the subject. It makes it come alive."
She and another teacher have combined their efforts for one of those creative endeavors. They are team-teaching 60 students together instead of each taking 30. They focus on art history, literature, philosophy and religion for Timpanogos High's humanities academy. They have recently focused on Baroque art.
Her students have enjoyed the approach.
"She loves teaching and she is really good at it," said Madeline Reinhard, a junior who serves as a teacher's assistant. She selected Davis as the teacher she wanted to help.
"She wants us to succeed," Reinhard said. "I see that she gets frustrated sometimes when she is not able to help students if they don't ask or come to her.
"It is probably because she was inspired by a teacher. She talks about her art history teacher when she was in high school. I think she loves being around high school students. As crazy as we are, we are fun."
Timpanogos principal Theron Murphy also praised Davis.
"Anna is compassionate, patient, reflective, creative, strategic and deliberate in her approach," Murphy said. "Her radiant personality inspires, motivates and influences those with whom she works. Her ability to instill confidence and inspire all students sets her apart from the average educator.
"Students hold Ms. Davis in high regard because she sees in them their greatest potential and has an innate ability to help them reach it."
Davis not only teaches at Timpanogos, but serves as an executive member on the school’s leadership team. She teams with an administrator and two teachers to oversee the instructional leadership team. Her team has been actively building shared knowledge and leadership capacity among departmental team leaders.
Much of the recent focus on education has been on STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and math. But Davis says those are not the only areas key to a student's education.
"Art is essential," she said. "A lot of movements right now are about giving our kids skills for the 21st century.
"I did research about this for my thesis. There are employers who can't find people for jobs. They need those who can communicate, be problem solvers, know how to be creative, how to work as a group."
She said art helps students develop those skills.
"Kids are given a blank slate," she said about artistic opportunities. "They have to create something. It gives confidence. It helps them communicate and share their ideas. It infuses their life with joy and beauty. I think that is so valuable. You look at the world differently when you are an artist.
"Sometimes people think art classes are just fun and they can slack off, but they are gaining the most critical skills for the future. I tell them that."
Davis enjoys the challenges of teaching and the variety each day brings.
"I don't ever dread coming to work," she said.
One challenge that is difficult for her to overcome is time management. She teaches during seven of the school's eight periods, along with overseeing collaboration efforts for more than 50 secondary art teachers in the district. She also works with SWAP, a statewide art partnership that works to obtain a legislative grant to promote art with students across the state.
The recession has increased the number of students who receive fee waivers, which impacts the budget for her classes and materials. She has to take such things into consideration as she plans.
"It infuses every part of my life," she said about her teaching. "Most of the time that is good. Sometimes it can get overwhelming. But, like everything else in life, what you put into it is what you get out of it."
The same holds true for her students.
"We live through the successes of our students," she said. "It is gratifying to see their big smiles when they win awards."