Brook Forest Art teacher Mike Divelbiss was named as the 2019 Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA).
The award is the highest given to art educators in the state. Annually, the IAEA recognizes outstanding art educators from a highly competitive slate of nominees. In selecting Divelbiss, the IAEA said “our awards and scholarship committee found Mr. Divelbiss’s professional performance, service, and leadership to the field to be exemplary in every regard.”
Divelbiss, better known as “Mr. D” is “a student-centered educator who continuously explores, contemplates, and adapts his craft and instructional practices to meet the needs of his students,” said Brook Forest Principal Dr. Chad Prosen. “The connection with his students permeates his work, beliefs, and philosophies both in and out of the classroom.
Not only a master teacher, Divelbiss has intertwined his passions for teaching, art and travel to help make the world a better place.
He graduated from the University of Iowa with a BFA with a double major in Art Education and an emphasis in ceramics. He later earned his Masters in Education. During college, he was a camp counselor in England and Germany and completed his student teaching in New Zealand. During the summers, while off from teaching, he planned two mission trips to Zambia and one to Mexico. In Zambia, he created an organization called “Art with a Mission Inc.” (AWAM), which empowers artists of all ages to create and sell quality work that could then produce resources to help children in need. The organization has since raised $30,000 to provide for children in need in third world countries. He also worked with an orphanage in Cambodia called “Friends of the Orphan Children Organization” to help the children create and sell their artwork to raise funds to build a new school building. He also worked alongside the Peace Corps in Ecuador to paint a huge mural to educate the village about sustainability.
He has taught at Brook Forest since 2002. Divelbiss teaches his students through a method called Choice Based Art (CBA). This method promotes the importance of giving students choice over their learning in the art room, fostering imagination and allowing students to grow at their own pace and an opportunity to respond to their own ideas. In this way, they gain a wide range of knowledge and skills while creating deeply personal artwork.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have had so many talented and remarkable educators inspire and guide me on this journey. I am especially fortunate to be teaching in an amazing school community that not only supports, but cherishes the arts,” he said.
The honor was announced Aug. 19. Divelbiss will be formally recognized by the IAEA at its annual Conference on Nov. 22 in St. Charles.