NFMAA teacher earns leadership award
At North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, Theresa West-Taylo is responsible for what is at the school’s heart, the arts.
She also teaches her middle-schoolers about art and the basics of set design, without which the productions the school puts on would not be possible.
Recently, West-Taylo was recognized for winning the Florida Alliance for Arts Education Leadership award and as the FAAE’s Arts Education Professional for 2020.
West-Taylo said she was completely surprised by the honor.
“I was very pleased because I have worked with the FAAE over the last 13 years. They are the umbrella arts organization,” West-Taylo said. “Getting recognition from them is very special because they are a great group of artists and teachers who I admire. This is a great school and I think the hard work of my team really makes it go well.”
West-Taylo teaches Art 1, 2, and 3 and Set Design to sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders at NFMAA. She also serves as the Arts Department director for the school, leading her team through reviews of the program, facilities and curriculum to improve student learning through the arts and instill pride in their skills.
Principal Andrea Gunns said that it was she and former principal Robert Millins who wrote up the nomination, with another letter written by Douglas Santini, the principal at NFMAA before Millins and the just-retired executive director for the Fine and Performing Arts of the School District of Lee County.
“She really goes above and beyond for the team and the school. She is a great leader and pours her heart and soul into her students,” Gunns said. “She not only teaches them art, but also gives them the background and research behind the art.”
West-Taylo is key to the school’s productions. She gets together with the arts team to create the scenes, and the students take those ideas and makes them reality.
“We do the backdrops and props for the Nutcracker every year. In our spring musical and the fourth- and fifth-grade musicals we build the sets and props,” West-Taylo said. “We always decorate the school with framed artwork and posters, so we keep students’ artwork out and about.”
In the community, they work on the Edison Tree Trail. The children’s artwork is on display at the Sydney & Byrne and the Art Alliance in Fort Myers.
The Florida Alliance for Arts Education recognizes leaders who work in various capacities to ensure that arts education is available in all Florida schools and communities and that arts education is of the highest quality. Leadership in the areas of education, administration, and community are recognized.
West-Taylo has worked with them on arts integration programs and with leadership conferences in Southwest Florida and for state events.
The accomplishment did not escape the attention of the Lee County School District.
“We’re very proud of her accomplishments and she is a great example of how our art teachers are leaders not just in the classroom, but in the community,” said Rob Spicker, school district spokesperson.