Last month, Lisa Federici, an art teacher at Wellington C. Mepham High School in Bellmore, was named the 2021 Regional Art Educator of the Year by the New York State Art Teachers Association. She won the award for Region 9 in New York, which is Nassau County.
A teacher for 14 years, Federici told the Herald she was “very lucky” to have spent her entire career thus far in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. Having started at John F. Kennedy High School, she later taught at Merrick Avenue Middle School before moving to Mepham, where she has been for the past five years.
Federici, who is originally from Farmingdale and now lives in Suffolk County, teaches Studio Art, an introductory class, and Creative Suite, Bellmore-Merrick’s digital art program. The markedly different classes, she said, give her the chance to work with different kinds of students. “Creative Suite is an amazing class that allows kids to be creative, but not while being a traditional art student,” she said. “It’s such a fun class — it brings kids in from every walk of life.”
Federici also teaches five levels of sculpture, with Levels 1 and 3 running in the fall, and Levels 2 and 4 in the spring. The Level 5 class is more of an independent program, she explained, usually attracting only a handful of students if it runs.
“It’s such an amazing experience to teach an art class,” she said. “Even for kids who are just doing it for a graduation requirement, seeing them engaged is just exactly why I’m a teacher — the art is just an added bonus.”
There is a nomination process for the Art Educator award, and a friend of Federici’s, a teacher in Rockville Center, let her know that she had sent in a nomination on her behalf. The others who nominated her have all remained anonymous.
The New York State Art Teachers Association is a professional organization for teachers. “I was notified in the spring that I would be the winner in 2021,” Federici said. “[The ceremony] was in Binghamton, at the 73rd annual NYSATA conference.”
There was a winner chosen in each of 10 regions, as well as one statewide winner.
“Ms. Federici is incredibly deserving of this award,” Cheryl Fontana, the director of fine and performing arts in the Bellmore-Merrick district, said. “Her passion for art combined with her broad knowledge and skill set make her a true asset to our department.
“Whether it’s proposing new courses, involving her students in various competitions or exhibit submissions, exploring field trip options or simply sharing lessons with colleagues,” Fontana added, “Lisa continuously finds ways to help further grow our program while at the same time inspiring her students to be the best young artists they can.”
Aside from teaching, Federici is also an artist outside the classroom. “I’m actually a fiber and mixed-media artist, so I create artwork with recycled fabric,” she said. “Sometimes I apply to shows and get into them. I’m a local artist — mostly on Long Island.”
She recently received an honorable mention for her piece “Pinned Rapture and Melancholy.”
“Right now, I have artwork on display in Northport,” she said. “And I was just in a virtual show in California. I just try to get my artwork out there so people can see it, and so I can see what their reaction would be.”
Federici was honored at the Dec. 1 Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education meeting, where both Superintendent Mike Harrington and board Trustee Melissa Cmar-Grote also spoke highly of her and her dedication to the school, her students and art education.
“Many art teachers in Bellmore-Merrick, and throughout Long Island, see her as a resource and appreciate her persistent dedication,” Cmar-Grote said. “Lisa’s commitment to our students, her colleagues and community are truly valued. We congratulate her on this recognition, and look forward to seeing her continuing growth in Bellmore-Merrick.”
“I’m just so thankful for being recognized, and for being acknowledged for something I do,” Federici told the Herald. “It’s a great feeling, and I’m truly grateful.”