TROY – When she saw the balloons, the cameras, and the wide smiles, Justine Bledsoe knew a Concord Elementary School teacher was about to be named the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Educator of the Year.
And Bledsoe, Concord’s art teacher since 2012, was happy to point them in the right direction to the deserving teacher.
Little did she know, she was the deserving teacher, and she is the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Educator of the Year. She’ll be recognized at the chamber’s annual awards ceremony Wednesday.
“I thought they were going to ask me directions to someone else’s room,” Bledsoe said just moments after chamber representatives surprised her in the middle of a Monday morning art class. “Really, I’m shocked.”
She shouldn’t be, according to Concord Elementary School Principal Dan Hake, who nominated her for the award.
“There are many reasons why we feel that Mrs. Bledsoe deserves to be recognized as an outstanding educator,” Hake wrote in his nomination form to the chamber. “First, Mrs. Bledsoe is the epitome of positivity. Displayed outside her room are bright and colorful murals with encouraging art phrases. Just looking at them puts you in a brighter mood and gets you in a creative spirit. As students walk into her classroom, they are always greeted with a cheery welcome and a sincere smile from her. She exudes positivity about art but also life in general. Her laugh is infectious, and she puts students and coworkers in a happy mood.
“Mrs. Bledoe’s attitude is coupled by her great knowledge of K-5 art standards and lesson ideas. She starts each art class with a mini-lesson in her ‘carpet area.’ She reviews artists they are studying, artistic techniques for the particular project they are working on, and then sets them free to use the rest of their art period to create. Her classroom instruction is primarily student-led, with the students taking ownership of passing out materials and cleaning up the work areas. Perhaps the neatest moments are when Mrs. Bledsoe circles around, doing informal art conferencing with students. The feedback she provides students is specific and detailed. She always praises students and also gives them suggestions to help them continue to grow as an artist.”
Bledsoe received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Wright State University in 2009 and later earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Dayton. She’s been with the Troy City Schools and became the art teacher at Concord in 2012. In addition to her daily teaching duties, she also organizes the annual Concord Art Show, which features work from all 670 students.
“I feel like I’m not quite old enough to receive that honor, or I haven’t been doing this long enough,” Bledsoe said. “It seems like something people who just are incredible teachers who have been doing this for 30 years get this award. Really, I’m honored. To even be thought of, I’m honored.”
Bledsoe said the opportunity to work with budding young artists every day is the best part of her job.
“Oh, it’s fun,” she said. “I get over 600 kids a week who can’t wait to come to art. It makes it fun to get up and come to work every day. I love building their skills. I get to teach them for six years straight. There’s a lot of joy in that.”