Art Educator of the Year
Stephanie Silverman 04 FD accepted top honors at the 2015 NAEA convention in New Orleans.
Stephanie (Welch) Silverman 04 FD first recognized her interest in teaching when she was at RISD and working as a teaching assistant for Professor John Dunnigan MFA 80 ID. Showing a natural gift in the classroom, she earned the Furniture Design department's Tage Frid Award for Excellence in Teaching as she was graduating. President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID, who was department head at the time, remembers Silverman’s excitement at receiving the award, which made her recent honor at the National Art Education Association’s annual convention in New Orleans that much more special.
While Somerson was a featured speaker at the conference, Silverman accepted the NAEA’s 2015 award for Eastern Region Secondary Art Educator of the Year—meaning she was recognized as the best high school art teacher in a region stretching from Washington, DC north to Newfoundland and Ontario. “Stephanie Silverman exemplifies the highly qualified art educators active in education today: leaders, teachers, students, scholars and advocates who give their best to their students and the profession,” notes NAEA President Dennis Inhulsen.
“I am truly humbled to receive this important distinction,” Silverman says, “but I share the honor with my students at The Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE. After all, effective teaching is truly a synergy—a kind of reciprocity between student and teacher.”
After graduation Silverman initially worked as a graphic designer in Philadelphia but felt that something was missing. “I missed the tangible immediacy of working with physical art materials, and the creative synergy and dynamism of a creative collective environment,” she says. “Working in isolation behind the glow of a computer screen was not how I envisioned my career in art and design, and I knew I needed a change.”
Even before Silverman completed a master’s degree in Visual Arts Education at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia—in record time and supported by a graduate fellowship—she landed her first art education position at her high school alma mater, Archmere Academy, in Claymont, DE. Within six months, she was asked to chair the art department there and three years later moved on to The Tatnall School, a private K-12 day school where she’s now head of the Upper School art program, as well as the interdivisional K-12 art curriculum coordinator.
Last fall Silverman passed her first attempt at becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) with a certificate in Early Adolescence/Young Adulthood Art, making her the only art educator in Delaware private schools to hold the credential. She also serves as the Independent School Representative on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Art Education Association, while making time for her own practice, too.
“I think it’s critical that I continue to evolve and grow as an artist,” Silverman says, “and it is especially important that I don’t lose touch with the challenges and thrills of the creative process through my own studio practice.”
At The Tatnall School, Silverman teaches more than 17 art electives, including drawing and painting; 2D, 3D and architectural design; digital media, illustration, printmaking and more. “So much of what I do every day is a direct expression of my experience at RISD,” she says. “The emphasis on deep inquiry, balancing the technical and conceptual, focus on technique and process—all of it is so central to how I teach my classes. And the biggest thrill for me, of course, is when my students apply to RISD.”
Since 2010 Silverman’s students have won numerous regional and national awards and more than half a million dollars in scholarships and prizes for their fine art achievements. “My career in art education is a dream come true,” she says. “My students inspire me every day, and I can’t envision a better opportunity for me to share my varied skill set and passions with others in a meaningful and high-impact way.”
Recent alums founded Pneuhaus, a contemporary art and design collective focused on making gargantuan inflatables and other breathtaking objects.
Alumni Katherine Gray MFA 91 GL and Alexander Rosenberg 06 GL are both central to the cast of the glassblowing competition show Blown Away on Netflix.
Textiles students design custom jacquards for the RISD library’s collection of classic Knoll chairs.