Lander teacher receives 2020 Arts Learning Innovation Award

WYOMING — The Wyoming Arts Council today announced Courtney Widhalm as the 2020 Arts Learning Innovation Award Recipient. Widhalm teaches at Baldwin Creek Elementary and Gannett Peak Elementary schools in Lander.

Widhalm, who is in her ninth year of teaching, will be honored for her work in arts education at the Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference, which will be held virtually this year, Nov. 5 through 6, to honor outstanding educators that are incorporating digital learning into their work.

“It is such an honor to win this award,” Widhalm said. “I work hard to design authentic art projects that take students into the community and learn about their world because I want them to see and experience the possibilities for careers in art.”

The Wyoming Arts Council established the Arts Learning Innovation Award in partnership with the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE). The award was established to promote awareness and appreciation of Pre K-12 arts educators, recognizing their creativity, talent, and leadership in education.

As a supporter and partner in arts education, the Wyoming Arts Council remains dedicated to making the arts fundamental to education, particularly in supporting programs and educators that serve Pre-K – 12 students.

“We received a tremendous response from parents, students, educators, and administrators with nominations for stand-out art educators in their community,” said Mary Billiter, Arts Education Specialist. Any Wyoming licensed and certified arts educator in any art discipline – theater, dance, visual, literary, and performing arts were eligible to be nominated.

“The strong selection of submissions we received provided a wonderful challenge for our panel of judges, who ultimately selected Widhalm for the work they cited that went above and beyond,” said Billiter.

Leslie Voxland, Gannett Peak Elementary Principal hired Widhalm as an arts educator more than eight years ago.

“She stood out immediately – even on Zoom,” said Voxland, who noted Widhalm’s online interview. “I fell in love with her. She had a special spark to her.”

Voxland credited Widhalm with building connections within the community to bring new art experiences to her students.

“I would not be able to provide these special projects without help. Most of my big project ideas result from collaborating,” said Widhalm.

Widhalm has partnered with Promoting Arts in Lander Schools (PALS), local artists, Wyoming Game and Fish, ATLAS, the Lander Art Center, and Maker Space 307.

“I had an art teacher that believed in me and fostered my creativity. I have always loved art but I would not have pursued it without her support. I hope to pay it forward and plant the seed for my students to love and appreciate art,” Windhalm said.

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