Each January, the Arts and Education Council presents the St. Louis Arts Awards where we gather to celebrate the individuals and organizations whose contributions to our artistic community make the bi-state region more vibrant.

Proceeds from the St. Louis Arts Awards help A&E invest in the people and organizations that create diverse performances, exhibitions, workshops, art education programs and so much more for 1.6 million adults and children in our community each year.

At the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards, we’ll celebrate seven honorees, including Art Educator of the Year Amy Freet, who encourage our kids to be more creative thinkers, build bridges among cultures, energize our communities, foster our economy and enrich lives.

When Freet learned of the teaching position available at Airport Elementary in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she thought it could be an interesting opportunity to combine her passion for music and education with her background in music therapy.

That first year was a challenge. But, then, Freet did something unexpected —she came back for a second year.

“That’s when everything changed,” Freet remembered.

Fifteen years later, it’s a different story.

Freet, who holds bachelor’s degrees in education and psychology from Maryville College and is a registered music therapist, knew the arts could make an enormous difference in her students’ lives academically and emotionally.

So, she partnered with local organizations like the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Jazz St. Louis and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (all A&E grantees) for field trips and in-school programs valued at up to $32,000 per year and partnered with COCA (an A&E grantee) and Boeing to develop a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) program in the district. Freet now teaches both general music and string orchestra at Airport Elementary and string orchestra at the district’s recently-opened STEAM Academy.

The transformation has been astounding. Her students’ reading and math scores are several grade levels above where they were and the classroom engagement is even higher. Freet’s colleagues credit her commitment to her students for the transformation, but she prefers to focus on the collaborative approach to teaching.

“I have a great interest in promoting project-based learning and trying to get the arts in the classrooms,” Freet said. “That’s the 21st century.”

Project-based learning encourages students to use a combination of academic areas to solve real-world issues and challenges.

Freet believes incorporating the arts and music into education is just getting started.

“I really think that we’re getting ready to see music take a more prominent role in education,” she added.

The Art Educator of the Year Award is sponsored by Bayer.

Tickets for the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards start at $300 and are on sale through Saturday, January 19 at 6:00 p.m. Learn more about the event here.

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