Nancy Zabler, art teacher at Little Wolf High School in Manawa, recently won an unexpected award.
“It was a complete surprise. I had no idea it was coming. It was a little overwhelming because I didn’t know it was going to happen, but I’m very thankful and very glad to have it,” Zabler said about winning the President’s Award presented by the Wisconsin Art Education Association.
The award is the second award she has been recognized for by the association. In 2008 she won the Secondary Art Educator of the Year award. Winning an award in 2008 is one of the reasons Zabler was surprised by her most recent award.
“Getting two awards from the same association is kind of rare. It doesn’t happen a whole lot,” Zabler said.
There is only one President’s Award given by the association each year, and the winner is determined by the president of the association, which is Jen Sweeney Dahl.
Zabler said she has always loved art.
“I had the greatest art teacher in the world when I was in school,” Zabler said. “I had her from first grade through 12th grade. She was wonderful, and she was a big inspiration. It was a room that was comfortable to me. It was something I felt good about doing. I knew I had the abilities and it was a comfort zone for me. I always knew I wanted to do something creative.”
She began teaching art at the elementary school level 29 years ago. After three years, she joined the School District of Manawa to become the Little Wolf Jr/Sr High School art teacher.
Zabler, a member of the Wisconsin Art Education Association, said the association consists mostly of current elementary and high school art teachers, but there are also retired and students members.
Zabler attributes being chosen as the recipient of this award to the time and effort she spends working with the Visual Arts Classic. The Visual Arts Classic is a competition for high school art students.
“I’ve been a regional chair for that for nine years. I was state co-chair for it for six years,” she said.
The regional competition that Zabler is in charge of is held at UW-Stevens Point each March. She said the competition used to attract up to nine schools, but only four schools have competed the last couple years. Little Wolf High School is one of the schools that compete in the competition.
She said the competition is beneficial for art students.
“I’ve had really great comments from alumni students that have gone to this program,” Zabler said. “Their professors are very impressed with their skills and abilities when they get to college because of what they learned through this program. It’s a real confidence builder for the kids who love art. It’s just a wonderful program for kids.”
Being recognized by her peers for the time and effort she has put toward this student competition is what Zabler appreciates the most about being chosen for this award.
“It means a lot to be chosen by my peers, to be recognized for the work that I have done,” she said. “I’ve put in so many extra hours in this program. The high school competition that we participate in is such a great program for the kids and I’m just really proud of that program. It’s nice to be recognized for the time and the effort I’ve put into that.”
Zabler will receive her award at an awards dinner on Thursday, Oct. 24 in Eau Claire.
“I’m really proud of my kids too,” Zabler said. “They’ve done really well. This is also for them. They put the work into this.”