Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa, was named 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year at an A+ Network webinar on Thursday, May 4. Ms. Cozzi has served the ArtSpace community for 14 years — first as an arts integration specialist, then as a program coordinator, and for the past 10 years as the director. The award recognizes an A+ educator who best exemplifies the values of A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.
Ms. Cozzi 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 truly supports collaboration among staff allowing for deeply 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 are “sacred” and ArtSpace staff understand that nothing takes priority over the collaborative planning schedule. “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.”
When reflecting on the impact of A+ on her own school, Ms. Cozzi shared, “When fully embraced by a school community, the A+ philosophy becomes something to believe in and aspire to. A+, when done well, can become a common vision, bringing a school into alignment and focus, unifying its parts.”
Ms. Cozzi holds a degree in elementary education and a master of science in art education. She is also national board certified as a middle childhood generalist. She has been an A+ Fellow since 1999 and serves as an A+ Liaison to several of our A+ schools in the western part of the state.
As the 2017 A+ Educator of the Year, Ms. Cozzi will receive classroom arts products generously donated by Crayola, will attend NCCAT’s Leadership Academy with other statewide and district Educators of the Year, and will serve as an “ambassador” for A+ Schools of North Carolina for the upcoming school year.
The Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award was created in memory of Gerry D. Howell, long-time A+ Schools executive director and the inspiration behind the creative teaching and learning of countless educators, administrators and students across N.C. To honor her legacy, each year the A+ Schools selects one dedicated A+ educator who best exemplifies these values of the A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.