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On top of the art world

Lakeridge teacher named one of best art educators in the country
by: Vern Uyetake, Shannon McBride, art teacher at Lakeridge High School, was recently chosen to receive the 2007 Pacific Region Secondary Art Educator Award.

LAKE OSWEGO - Lakeridge High School art teacher Shannon McBride believes educating teens about art should extend way beyond her classroom's creatively covered walls.

For McBride, that requires immersing herself in every outlet of art education there is, from submitting student work to exhibitions around Portland to attending conferences in other states.

In a state where funding for school art programs is shaky, teachers need to band together and push each other to success, she said.

'Art teachers are the greatest people in the world, full of ideas and always willing to help,' McBride said. 'I am a composite of the many art teachers I've met and worked with over the years.'

McBride, the president of the Oregon Art Education Association, has been an art teacher for 17 years; first at Riverdale Grade School - now at Lakeridge.

Her enthusiasm for art and her dedication to teaching it caught the attention of the National Art Education Association, which this month named her the 2007 Pacific Region Secondary Art Educator of the Year.

McBride will accept the award - one of five in the nation - in March at the NAEA National Convention held in New York City.

Her four mentors, all local female artists, plan to be in attendance.

'I'll probably cry,' she said.

Gladstone High School art teacher John Allgood nominated McBride for the regional honor, which is a step up from the Oregon Art Educator award she won last year.

He was impressed with McBride's 'endless reservoirs of energy' and the quality of her students' work.

'She does so many things that are beyond the basic requirements of her profession,' he said. 'She just happens to be leading in my field of art education, but art is not her greatest talent. Her real talent is her skill and commitment to helping students … recognize their true potential.'

McBride is thrilled to receive the regional award, especially if it encourages more people to become art teachers or get involved in her organization.

The acknowledgement certainly doesn't hurt, she said.

'It helps save the arts and shows that what we're doing has value,' she said. 'I want to keep riding this wave to bring people in and show them how great it is.'

The honor caps off another year of achievements by McBride's students, who won regional and national art awards for their work and go on to attend prestigious art schools around the country.

Her calendar of student exhibitions is jam-packed, and McBride teaches three full classes each day. She's often so busy she doesn't have time to work on her own series of road kill portraits (which highlights the fine line between life and death).

'It's good for the kids to see me producing work,' she said.

At the same time, she's not one to stand quietly over a working student and not offer a word of encouragement or criticism.

'My work is their work,' McBride said, noting she often thinks about students' art while she's driving around town or cooking for her family.

Senior Megan Price said the art room is her home away from home where she always feels welcome.

McBride 'won't change what I want to do, but she'll give me ideas and motivate me to go another way,' Price said. 'She fills me up with ideas but doesn't make it her own. We can do what we want to do'

McBride sets high expectations for her students, but still believes in 'art for the masses,' especially for students who are inexperienced with art.

'Art doesn't happen miraculously,' she said. 'It's their art work but I'm behind them saying, 'Good job' or 'Believe in yourself.' I'm kind of their cheerleader.'

McBride, who lives in West Linn with her husband Rob and kids Xander and Emma, comes from a family of artists that goes back several generations.

Yet, she attended University of Oregon thinking she would major in telecommunications and film and work for her father. Instead, she wound up in the art education program where she began to feel at home. The rest, of course, is history.

'I've sort of woven my way into the art world in different capacities,' she said.

Her goal is to keep the dialogue moving on how teachers can improve art programs across Oregon. McBride points out that Lakeridge administrators support her curriculum changes and students' work that pushes boundaries.

'They're never censored,' she said.

Since her arrival at Lakeridge, art offerings have increased to include Advanced Placement classes and digital photography. McBride wants to make her art room a warm and welcoming place where students can explore their inner artist.

'When a student finds joy in their creative outlets, there is a positive carryover to the school, their minds and their test scores,' McBride said.

Gunnar and Marjie Brinck, whose three children had McBride as a teacher, say she genuinely cares about each student, and those students realize it and respond.

The Brincks nominated McBride for the regional award because they felt it was time McBride got the recognition she deserves.

'Shannon affords her students exceptional opportunities and every year (she) is instrumental in changing students' lives,' they wrote. 'She … creates an environment that encourages creativity.'

Shalyn Nelson, a senior at Lakeridge, has taken art classes every year.

'You can pretty much tell her anything,' she said of McBride. 'She's not going to judge you. It makes it easy to be in her class.'

Starting March 1, West Linn Public Library will host an exhibit of artwork by the Decade Sisters, including McBride. Group members include her mentors, Susan Parker, Cathy Cain, Jan Sonniksen and Joani Janin. Anne Goodrich's work also will be shown.