Local art teacher honored with statewide award
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 12:16

Ali is a longtime teacher at Sparrows Point

by Nicole Rodman

    For Sparrows Point High School art teacher Victoria Ali, it was the news she had been hoping to hear.
    Just two days before the annual Maryland Art Education Association (MAEA) Conference on Oct. 18, Ali got word that she was being honored at the conference as the Maryland High School Art Teacher of the Year.
    “I was delighted, and couldn’t wait to tell someone, but it wasn’t official until Oct. 19,” Ali told The Eagle last week. “I told my family and my co-worker but it was hard to keep quiet.”
    While she found out in October that she had won the award, Ali had known since the summer that she was being considered for the honor.
    As she recalled, she informed her students in June that she had been nominated for the award.
    Her name was submitted for consideration by Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) Visual Arts coordinator Linda Popp and BCPS Visual Arts supervisor Farrell Maddox.
    Once she was nominated, Ali was asked to submit a resume and biography highlighting her achievements in art education, both at Sparrows Point and beyond.
    Colleagues also submitted two recommendation letters speaking to Ali’s credentials.
    Ali was chosen for the award in a vote held by members of the MAEA executive team.

The MAEA is an organization made up of art educators across the state.
    The goal of the group, according to the MAEA website, is “to encourage, strengthen and promote the role of the visual arts in education.”
    To this end, each year, the MAEA honors three educators as Elementary, Middle and High School Art Teachers of the Year.
    “MAEA members are nominated statewide for their outstanding achievement and exemplary service to the art education profession,” Ali explained.
    Victoria Ali has had a passion for art ever since she was a young child.
    “I have always loved art and would sit in the library of my elementary school studying the works of masters,” she told The Eagle in a 2011 interview.
    After graduating from Patapsco High School, Ali earned a bachelor’s degree from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended graduate school at Towson University.
    She has taught in Baltimore County for 37 years, nearly 20 of which she has spent at Sparrows Point High School.
    At Sparrows Point, Ali serves as chair of the school’s visual arts department.
    She teaches a variety of courses, from basic to advanced-placement.
    Ali teaches across mediums, instructing courses such as Fundamentals of Art, Design in Clay and Digital Photography.
    In her role at Sparrows Point, Ali works to incorporate art into every aspect of school life.
    She collaborated with the school’s environmental science magnet program to create a unique environmental photography course available only at Sparrows Point.
    Ali and her students also contribute to the school literary magazine and help design sets for the theatre department.
    Ali also serves as an advisor to the school’s chapter of the National Art Honor Society, works at art summer camps, mentors aspiring art teachers and helps write art curriculum for Baltimore County Public Schools.             One of Ali’s biggest projects in recent years has been Sparrows Point’s Trashy Fashion Show.   
    Noticing that many of her students were interested in fashion design, Ali combined her school’s environmental magnet program with her focus on the arts to create Trashy Fashion.
    As part of the fashion show, held each March, students use recycled materials to design and create new fashions.
    In August, 10 of Ali’s students even modeled their designs during Baltimore Fashion Week.
    Ali has worked to spread the word of her unique project, presenting workshops on the Trashy Fashion concept at both the MAEA conference and the National Art Education Association Conference in New York.
    Ali’s passion to teach art comes from a deep belief in the benefits that art education provides to students.
    As she explained, “Art teaches not only the artistic process ... it cultivates creativity, promotes critical thinking and problem solving.”
    According to Ali, these skills are invaluable to students as they move from the classrooom to the workplace.
    “Companies are now realizing that creativity is an asset and they are looking for individuals who think outside the box,” she noted.
    While Ali’s passion for art has taken her all over the state — and beyond — her heart remains at Sparrows Point.
    “Sparrows Point is a small comprehensive and magnet high school in a great little community,” she said, adding, “I love the people I work with and I love the students. Everyone works together for a common good.”
    Throughout the years, Ali has formed close bonds with many of her students.
    “There is a team of students who have graduated and we meet at least once a year to share ideas and experiences over lunch,” she explained. “Each year, new members join our group. People keep in touch and we care about each other.”