Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa, was named the 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year at an A+ Network webinar on Thursday, May 4. The award recognizes an A+ educator who best exemplifies the values of A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.
Ms. Cozzi has served the ArtSpace community for 14 years — first as an arts integration specialist, a program coordinator and for the past 10 years as the director. She has been an educator for more than 30 years, and the arts have been at the core of her teaching and central to the educational programs and professional development she has provided in her many roles. She also believes in the power of the A+ Essentials and how they offer students opportunities to fully engage in the classroom.
“Engagement is critical to student success,” Ms. Cozzi shared in her personal statement. “Students want to ‘do,’ to create, to shine and share. My classrooms and the school I lead, the workshops I present, all offer students the opportunity to think deeply and creatively, make connections to the world, and learn with their bodies, minds and hearts.”
Under Ms. Cozzi’s leadership, ArtSpace has developed a highly successful infrastructure that supports collaboration among staff allowing for integrated and meaningful experiences for their students. Ms. Cozzi’s purposeful, collaborative planning schedule allows grade level teachers, arts specialists, the assistant director and director to meet once per month to develop quarterly and year-long plans, brainstorm on school-wide projects and exchange ideas that often blossom into highly engaging, successful lesson plans involving several members of ArtSpace’s community.
“These meetings serve as the cog in the wheel of collaboration at ArtSpace and are intrinsic to the success of our school,” writes Lyn Van Over, 6th grade teacher, and one of the many staff who nominated Ms. Cozzi for the award. “The planning involved to make sure teachers are able to attend these meetings is awe inspiring.”
Ms. Cozzi has presented at multiple professional conferences to share her vision and strategy for making successful collaborative planning part of her school community. Recently, Ms. Cozzi collaborated with a new third grade teacher at ArtSpace to model a deeply integrated project that also gave her the opportunity to stay connected to her students in a classroom setting. The project, entitled Spectacular Spirals, provided students with an arts integrated experience that included visual art, dance, language arts, science and math while supporting her new classroom teacher with the tools to build a successful integrated unit.
This is just one example of Ms. Cozzi’s dedication to her students and staff and her belief that “the arts are uniquely capable of providing students and teachers with a wide variety of opportunities for growth.”