Two Memphis arts teachers win top state award

Two Memphis visual arts teachers were named Art Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Art Education Association.

Ebony Johnson, who teaches at White Station High School, is the 2014-15 High Level Art Teacher of the Year. And Jennifer Shiberou, who teaches at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Shiberou, a teacher at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.
PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Jennifer Shiberou, a teacher at Colonial Middle School, is the 2014-15 Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

The Shelby County Schools teachers were selected by peers across the state for the honor, which is given annually to three teachers.

“I’m really pleased to be able to give back to the system that gave me a really fabulous education,” said Shiberou. “I went to Memphis City Schools and had a great art teacher, and decided to become an art teacher myself.” This is Shiberou’s 12th year teaching art.

For each of the past four years, Shiberou has led her eighth graders in creating a project focused on a different social justice. Last year, students produced an exhibit of art focused on poverty in Memphis.

“The exhibit as a whole functions not just as an art show, but to communicate a social issue,” Shiberou said. “It’s been a uniting experience for the students who’ve gone through it.”

“Eighth grade—that’s the age where you become aware of what’s going on around you,” Shiberou said. “It’s a difficult age, but an age where you can make a strong impact.”

Johnson, who is in her fourth year as an arts teacher in Shelby County, said that she also aims to help high school students students learn and communicate about issues that affect their lives. In one of her upcoming projects, White Station high schoolers use art to reflect on education policy.

A flyer for an upcoming White Station art show focused on students' feelings about education policies.
PHOTO: Ebony Johnson
An upcoming White Station art show, put on by Ms. Johnson’s students, includes art based on students’ experiences with standardized tests.

“Essentially what they were doing is examining how it seems like their identity—their ethnicity, culture, education—seems to be replaced by their proficiency level in standardized testing,” she said.

Johnson said her students know to expect a rigorous workload in her class. “Yes, it’s an elective. But you know when you come in, this is just as important as science and math. What I’m teaching you is to how to have a voice and a visual language to express yourself.”

“Nothing is off limits in that room,” she said.

“I am extremely proud of Mrs. Shiberou. She is a great art teacher and a pillar of the work at Colonial,” said Marty Pettigrew, principal of Colonial Middle School, in a press release. “She constantly guides students to express their thoughts through the visual arts.”

“Ms. Johnson is a hard-working and dedicated teacher devoted to her profession, her students, and her content,” said Gregg Coats, Visual Arts & Theatre Instructional Advisor for Shelby County Schools, in a press release. “She is continually promoting, exhibiting and involving her students’ works in competitions, performances and exhibitions.  The level of her leadership and work ethic representation is strongly indicative of her professionalism and organizational skills.”

Both teachers will be honored at a ceremony at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the University of Memphis.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.