Cathedral teacher honored with state arts educator award
NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School’s art teacher recently received the 2019 Thad Cochran Distinguished Arts Educator Award for Arts Integration at the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education conference and awards reception on June 13 at Millsaps College Academic Complex in Jackson.
The award, named for the late former Mississippi U.S. Senator’s dedication to art instruction, is reserved for one teacher each year who demonstrates dedicated services and commitment to educating Mississippi students about art, said MAAE board member, Mark LaFrancis.
“Andree Gamberi (Cathedral art teacher) is not only an outstanding arts educator, but an advocate of arts education and a proponent of the theory of arts integration in life, education and community engagement,” LaFrancis said.
At Cathedral, Gamberi talks her students through each assignment step by step while instructing them on the rudimentary building blocks of fine art, turning the earliest amateurs into accomplished artists by the end of the school year, LaFrancis said.
Some of the creations by Gamberi’s students, such as prints for the Mississippi Duck Stamp Competition have sold in an auction for $1,000 or more.
However, Gamberi said her nomination and receipt of the award came as a surprise.
“I’m very honored when Mark called and said I had been nominated, and certainly didn’t expect it at all,” she said. “I had to do a lot of paperwork — as you can imagine I hadn’t put together a resume in years — and numerous photos of student artwork, letters of recommendation.”
When Gamberi accepted her current job at Cathedral in 1998, she had four young children and was a stay-at-home mom with a degree in fashion and merchandising she received from Mississippi State University in 1981, she said.
“I had not worked outside the home in several years,” Gamberi said. “When I received the call, I asked every art teacher in the area to give me ideas. … I was a blank slate.”
More than 20 years later, Gamberi said her students walk into her classroom and expect to work, though most first-year students are surprised when she tells them they will have to take tests, she said.
“We work on several small projects with just a few larger ones scattered throughout the year,” she said. “My class stays busy every single day. They come in, get their artboard, pick up where they left off and know what to do the next day.”
Gamberi teaches from the bottom up, she said, starting with simple line drawings using just a pencil and a sheet of paper and then teaching them to draw a human face. Further in the year, Gamberi said her students learn to use different techniques with color and several different mediums, including color pencils, watercolors, paints and more.
Just like any other school subject, her students learned to build upon what they’ve learned, Gamberi said, and the work requires knowledge of the different techniques, color schemes and even some mathematics to be done correctly.
“Art through the ages was a huge part of history,” Gamberi said. “It brings so many things to life and it gives students a great satisfaction to create things for themselves.”
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