Alumna Pooja Nair has been named “Rookie Teacher of the Year” by the North Carolina Art Educators Association (NCAEA). The NCAEA is the state's largest advocacy group dedicated to supporting visual arts education. The NCAEA honors one beginning teacher each year who has made “an exemplary initial contribution” and “demonstrates the potential for development.”
Nair received her Graduate Certificate in Art Education from UNC Charlotte in 2019 and is now teaching at J.T. Williams Secondary Montessori School, where she is the CMS Lead Middle School Art Teacher.
“Enrolling in the Graduate Certificate program at UNC Charlotte was undoubtedly the most valuable step I took on my journey to becoming an art educator,” she said. “This well-structured program thoroughly equipped us for real classroom experiences. From the insightful clinicals and mock teaching sessions to the comprehensive lessons on pedagogy and engaging class discussions, not to mention the research papers that challenged us, all these elements contributed significantly to prepare me as an aspiring educator.”
Since childhood, Nair has held a deep passion for teaching. She initially pursued a career in graphic and web design, but the calling to teach persisted.
“I started teaching at our Sunday School when my kids were little and enrolled there to volunteer. Initially hesitant, it proved to be a transformative experience for me. Simultaneously, I started teaching art to neighborhood children. Recognizing the synergy of my passions, I enrolled at UNC Charlotte, benefiting from exceptional professors who deepened my teaching knowledge and passion.”
Nair says that she relishes being a teacher.
“I love planning the curriculum and aligning it with how it will benefit my students and help them grow as young artists. Above all, I cherish the relationships built with students. It's the moments when they see their artistic progress or experience 'aha' moments, or when former students return to say 'hi' before each class that gives me so much joy.”
Art works by some of Pooja Nair's students, including two Scholastic Gold Key Winners.
Nair’s honor was announced during National Arts in Education Week (September 11-17), which was designed to inspire future arts teachers and show appreciation for current arts teachers.
“Art education plays a crucial role in our society as it offers numerous benefits to students,” Nair said. “It aids in reducing stress levels, fosters expressiveness and improved communication skills, enhances emotional regulation, and promotes social skills. Furthermore, art education has a positive impact on students' performance in other subjects, thanks to its ability to instill a calming influence in their lives.”
Two years ago, art alumna Allison Petrauskas '16 was also named the 2021 "Rookie Teacher of the Year" by the NCAEA. Petrauskas teaches at Harold E. Winkler Middle School in Concord, N.C.