Through a rigorous selection process involving shining peer recommendations and a Review Committee from the St. Mary’s County Arts Council, two exceptional local art teachers have been chosen as recipients of the prestigious Kay Daugherty Arts Educator Award for the year 2023. This year’s deserving awardees are Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi, Band Director at Leonardtown Middle School, and Sarah Tyson, Art Instructor at Chesapeake Public Charter School.

Pictured here L to R: Matthew Hayden, scholarship recipient Todd Burroughs, Supervisor of Fine Arts, St. Mary’s County Public Schools Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi, Kay Daugherty Award recipient Susie Glauner, St. Mary’s County Arts Council Executive Director Sarah Tyson, Kay Daugherty Award recipient Lily O’Neill, scholarship recipient Dr. Deborah Dennie, Principal of Leonardtown Middle School Credit: St. Mary's Arts Council

Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi, known for her passion and dedication to music education, firmly believes that all students should have equal access and opportunities to learn and play the instruments of their choice. She goes above and beyond to identify and address her students’ difficulties in their musical studies, investing extra time and effort to find effective solutions. Megan actively collaborates with individuals and groups to secure instruments for students in need, ensuring that no barriers hinder their practice and performance.

Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi

For Czechanski-Giannuzzi, artistic experiences, such as performing, impart invaluable life lessons in leadership and responsibility. She is driven by personal and professional missions to unlock the potential in each of her students, both in the present and for their future endeavors.

Assistant Principal Don Hollaway of Leonardtown High School lauds Ms. Czechanski-Giannuzzi’s instrumental role in fostering the remarkable band program at Leonardtown Middle School. She has also collaborated with elementary and high school band directors to promote and strengthen music programs throughout the district. Megan’s contributions extend beyond the classroom, as she develops Schoology lessons for general music and band students of all levels. Moreover, she leads the LMS band in performances at the Special Olympics, showcasing support and providing entertainment. Notably, the LMS band is the only middle school band in St. Mary’s County consistently participating in the College of Southern Maryland Jazz Festival. Under her vision and hard work, students have excelled, leading to Leonardtown Middle School boasting the highest number of students in the County Honor Band.

Sarah Tyson

Sarah Tyson, an art instructor at Chesapeake Public Charter School, takes a student-centered approach to art education. She firmly believes that art is accessible to everyone and that students can create meaningful work at any age. With unwavering dedication, Tyson strives to inspire and empower her students to think and work like artists. In her classroom, she assumes the role of a facilitator, equipping students with skills across various artistic mediums. She encourages her pupils to solve artistic problems, ultimately enabling them to discover their own artistic voices. Recognizing the power of arts integration in interdisciplinary learning, she advocates for the role of arts in reaching diverse types of learners.

Angela Funya, Charter Director at Chesapeake Public Charter School, commends Ms. Tyson’s ability to instill in students a desire to create and appreciate the process of bringing art to life. Tyson fosters an environment where students can achieve their goals by providing opportunities to create personal meaning. She embraces the idea of letting students grapple with tasks, allowing them to develop a deep understanding of concepts while providing appropriate scaffolding along the way. Moreover, Tyson excels in guiding her students and encouraging them to focus on their artistic process rather than fixating solely on outcomes. Her profound understanding of national art standards, the progression of skills, and strategies for building skill sets sets her apart from her colleagues.

The Kay Daugherty Arts Educator Awards were established in 2018 to honor the memory of Kay Daugherty (1921-2006), a renowned art enthusiast with a deep appreciation for various art forms. These awards, made possible through the support of the Daugherty family, recognize exceptional arts educators from the St. Mary’s County public school system annually. The awards aim to highlight the significant contributions of educators who go above and beyond to inspire and nurture the artistic talents of their students.

The St. Mary’s County Arts Council’s Review Committee meticulously reviewed the nominations and recommendations put forth by peers and colleagues of the local art teachers. The committee carefully assessed their teaching philosophies, dedication to their students, and impact on the school community. After a rigorous evaluation process, Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi and Sarah Tyson emerged as the well-deserving recipients of the Kay Daugherty Arts Educator Award for 2023.

The Daugherty family, who generously supports these awards, expressed their heartfelt congratulations to both recipients. The family firmly believes in the power of art education and its ability to shape young minds and foster creativity. By recognizing outstanding art educators, they aim to inspire others in the field and emphasize the importance of art in education.

The impact of exceptional teachers like Czechanski-Giannuzzi and Tyson extends beyond the walls of their classrooms. Their commitment to providing equitable access to arts education and fostering a supportive learning environment benefits their students and the broader community.

Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi’s tireless efforts to enhance the band program at Leonardtown Middle School have not gone unnoticed. Collaborating with other music educators, she has played a pivotal role in promoting and strengthening music programs across multiple schools. Her dedication to her student’s success is evident in her initiative to create Schoology lessons that cater to students of all levels. By taking her students to perform at the Special Olympics, Czechanski-Giannuzzi demonstrates the power of music to uplift and inspire. Moreover, the LMS band’s consistent participation in the College of Southern Maryland Jazz Festival showcases the caliber of talent fostered under her guidance.

Sarah Tyson’s student-centered approach to art education resonates with her students as she empowers them to explore their artistic potential. Tyson encourages students to express themselves and develop their unique artistic voices by fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment. Her emphasis on arts integration and interdisciplinary learning highlights the importance of creativity in various academic disciplines. Through scaffolded learning experiences, she helps students overcome challenges, acquire new skills, and gain a deep understanding of artistic concepts. Tyson’s commitment to guiding her students through the creative process rather than focusing solely on outcomes cultivates a lifelong appreciation for art.

The Kay Daugherty Arts Educator Award not only recognizes the exceptional work of Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi and Sarah Tyson but also serves as a reminder of the invaluable role arts education plays in shaping young minds. By equipping students with the skills and confidence to express themselves creatively, these educators contribute to the holistic development of their students.

The St. Mary’s County Arts Council, the Daugherty family, and the entire community congratulate Megan Czechanski-Giannuzzi and Sarah Tyson on receiving the Kay Daugherty Arts Educator Award. Their unwavering dedication, innovative teaching methods, and commitment to fostering artistic growth make them shining examples of the profound impact that arts education can have on students’ lives. As they continue to inspire and nurture the next generation of artists, their contributions will leave an indelible mark on the St. Mary’s County community and beyond.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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