EPCHS senior Elliot Douglas draws with oil pastels inspired by Astrophotography in an art class at EPCHS. (Supplied photos)

EPCHS senior Elliot Douglas draws with oil pastels inspired by Astrophotography in an art class at EPCHS. (Supplied photos)

Art association cites EPCHS as school of distinction

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EPCHS art teacher Tom Guerra’s Ceramics class outside of the school building doing a Raku Workshop. The high school was recently recognized by the Illinois Art Education Association as a 2022 School of Distinction.

By Kelly White

Located in the heart of the Evergreen Park Community, Evergreen Park Community High School prides itself in its academics and student involvement.

The high school, 9901 S. Kedzie Ave., Evergreen Park, was recently recognized by the Illinois Art Education Association as a 2022 School of Distinction. EPCHS was one of only five schools across Illinois to receive this honor.

“Personally, it feels like everything I have worked and fought for is making a difference,” Libby McArthur, Art Teacher at EPCHS, said. “The last few years with covid put a huge strain on me from a teaching aspect. I had to throw out most of my curriculum and start from scratch in order to meet the needs of my students. It was incredibly hard at times as well as emotionally straining because I worried not only for my family but for the health and safety of all of my students. To be honored with this award coming out of Covid is a reminder of what we are doing and how well we are doing it.”

The high school was informed of this award on August 28 but will receive it at the annual Illinois Art Educator Association Conference on November 11.

The recognition celebrates schools with rigorous art, design and media education programs. To earn the School of Distinction Award, EPCHS evidenced practices directly reflecting the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards, the Illinois Fine Arts and Media Standards, and Social-Emotional Learning Priorities, according to IAEA representatives.

EPCHS had to enact the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards, the Illinois Fine Arts and Media Standards, and Social-Emotional Learning Priorities. School officials had to submit evidence of all of these standards and more to even be considered.

“Like many schools, the need for College and Career readiness has pushed the elective classes to be less and less over the years,” McArthur said. “Despite this, our Art department still has a passion for our programs and strives to create a safe and engaging environment for our students to flourish. We love art and just want to share it with everyone. Our goal is to inspire and I think we do that.”

McArthur teaches art along with EPCHS alum, Tom Guerra. Both educators were recognized for their distinguished programming and the students’ significant opportunities.

“I love all the art department teachers,” Lily Tushkowski, 17, of Evergreen Park, said. “They make me feel welcome and always give amazing feedback. They are wonderful teachers and supply us with everything we need in order to be artists.”

“I find it fascinating they’re able to find such talented and truly passionate people to direct this arts program,” Brendan Farrell, 17, of Evergreen Park, said.

McArthur was humbled by her students’ positive response to the school’s art program.

“We love and inspire our students,” McArthur said. “Again, it is about building passion and a safe place for everyone. Many of my students sign up for more art classes and continually improve their skills.”

Participating in high-quality art, design, and media courses develops student creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills in valuable ways, according to the IAEA. Students in these programs gain social and emotional skills along with college and career readiness and citizenship.

“I like how there’s no competition within the art department,” Eliana Balfour, 17, of Evergreen Park, said. “Nobody’s trying to be better than the next person because we’re all just there to do what we enjoy, art.”

Research indicates that schools with successful programs like that at EPCHS experience increased student attendance, engagement, and academic performance compared to schools that don’t, according to IAEA representatives.

The other four high schools recognized by IAEA were Washington High School, Aurora Christian High School, Lemont High School, and Lake Zurich High School.

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Evergreen Park Community High School, 9901 S. Kedzie Ave., was recently recognized by the Illinois Art Education Association as a 2022 School of Distinction.

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