Alumna’s Student Wins Scholastic National Gold Medal

Eli Coblenz is Providence Day School art teacher Sydney Sheaffer’s first Gold Medal winner.

Providence Day School high school student Eli Coblenz recently became alumna Sydney Sheaffer’s first national Gold Medal winner in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Founded in 1923, the Scholastic Art& Writing Awards have become the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition and scholarship program for teen artists and writers in grades 7-12.

Coblenz, a rising junior, received the Gold Medal for his sculpture, “Building on Tradition,” a stunning rhinoceros head made of clay and wire on a wooden base.

“To hear Eli got the Gold Medal, that was really exciting,” Sheaffer said. “It was my first time having a student win a Gold Medal, so I’m really stoked about it.”

Eli Coblenz's work, Building on Tradition
Student Eli Coblenz’s and his Scholastic Gold Medal award-winning work, “Building on Tradition.”

Sheaffer graduated from UNC Charlotte in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Art in Art and minors in Japanese and art education. A North Carolina Teaching Fellow, she became an art teacher at Mallard Creek High School the next month.

Sydney Sheaffer headshot with art in the background
Alumna Sydney Sheaffer ’12

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “It’s where my passion is, where my strength is, where I feel I do the most good. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

Sheaffer taught at Mallard Creek, a public high school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) system, for seven years. The school encouraged students to enter work in the Scholastic Art Awards, and Sheaffer had participants each year. She moved to Providence Day School in the fall of 2020 and began organizing Scholastic submissions from her students. This past year, she started a chapter of the National Art Honors Society at the school.

In addition to studio courses, Sheaffer teaches Advanced Placement Art History and a course in art theory and philosophy. She believes that all of her students benefit from the art classes, regardless of their level of talent.

“I’m not expecting them to leave my class as Michelangelo,” she said. “They gain a greater understanding, a greater appreciation of art. And even if it’s time management, experimentation, being able to express themselves in a different way – art is good for all of those things.”

The College of Arts + Architecture is an Affiliate Partner for the Mid-Carolina Region of the Scholastic Art Awards, serving students and educators from central North Carolina and South Carolina. Learn more about the awards and how to participate here.