LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
Anoka High School’s Kevan Nitzberg named Minnesota
Art Educator of the Year
Ask Anoka High School’s (AHS) Kevan Nitzberg
what his favorite part about teaching art is and he
“The kids,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s the kids. It’s
watching them learn not only the material, but more
importantly developing a personal voice, understanding that they actually do have ability. And having them become more self-aware.”
Nitzberg’s dedication to his craft and his students
were recently recognized by the Art Educators of
Minnesota (AEM), which named him Minnesota Art
Educator of the Year at its annual fall luncheon. He
was also named Secondary Art Educator of the Year.
“I was just really shocked. It was not expected,”
AHS Principal Mike Farley, on the other hand, said
he was not at all shocked that Nitzberg received the
“It was no surprise, and it is well deserved,” he
said. “Our school, our staff and our students are really proud of him, and just elated that he was acknowledged for the great work that he does.”
Nitzberg has been teaching at AHS for 19 years.
He currently teaches three different drawing classes,
computer art, video art, a studio class for Advanced
Placement (AP) students, and an art history class
“I could be teaching anything, but art is my passion,” he said. “We live in a visual world, and if students don’t get those skills now, when are they supposed to get them? If they don’t become visually literate, they are at an extremely big disadvantage.”
Born and raised in New York City, Nitzberg got his
art degree from the Pratt Institute School of Art. It
was his experience as a student teacher at an alternative high school in New York City that convinced
him he wanted to be an educator.
“I had a student who was Chinese, the oldest of
seven kids, and his family lived in pretty abject
poverty. He worked three jobs,” he said. “One day
he brought in some of his art to show me, and he
had done these phenomenal water colors of open air
street markets in Hong Kong. They were just gorgeous.”
The student had never considered making a living
from his art, he said, but Nitzberg talked to the
director of admissions at Pratt, who agreed to meet
with him and look at his work. The school ended up
giving the student a full ride.
“So that was it. To know that, in a job, you can
make such a profound difference in somebody’s life …
that is what really got me to be an educator,” he said.
Nitzberg moved to Minnesota in 1976 and spent
the next 20 years teaching at St. Bernard’s, a private
high school in St. Paul that has since closed. During
his time there, he created an annual fine arts festival,
held over the course of a weekend, which was
designed to help bring together a relatively segregated and increasingly diverse population.
“The point was to change attitudes, and it
worked,” he said. “The teachers loved it, the kids
had a blast.”
It was at St. Bernard’s that Nitzberg first realized
that students weren’t making connections between
Anoka High School art teacher Kevan Nitzberg was named the
2015 Minnesota Art Educator of the Year and Secondary Art
Educator of the Year by the Art Educators of Minnesota (AEM).
different areas of learning. “So we created an art and music-based
humanities course. We managed to get them to listen to music
from various periods, study artwork, make artwork, and do research
projects,” he said.
Making those con