Heidi McElroy has been an art teacher in the Washington County (Va.) Public School System since 1993.
As Fine Arts Chairman (since 1996), she oversees a department of two visual arts teachers, one band instructor and one choral director who has an accompanist. She chaired the Washington County Art Teachers Association from 1994-96.
Previously she taught art in Fairfax County, Va., as well as California and New York. She was named Southwest Virginia Art Education Association's Secondary Art Educator of the Year in 1999 and was nominated for Abingdon High School Educator of the Year in 1998 and 2004.
She received her B.S. in Art Education from State University College in New Paltz, N.Y. She did additional graduate work at various colleges before graduating summa cum laude with a Master's in Art Education from Tusculum College, Greeneville, Tenn.
McElroy: I am very proud of the many students who have passed through the program here at Abingdon High School over the last 17 years. Some are art professors and teachers, studio artists, and commercial artists. Many have gained a deeper appreciation for the arts and have enriched their lives through the arts. I am pleased when my students tell me of the things they noticed and did because of their exposure here at AHS.
He recalls that McElroy. founded the Abingdon High School chapter of the National Art Honor Society; "for myself and many of my fellow inductees, that was the only honor society that we would ever be a part of. This certainly gave all of us a sense of pride when we donned our rainbow-colored tassels and cords during graduation. This went way beyond the call of duty as it required her to take on additional responsibilities including budgets and meetings. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, as so often is the case. I now realize that this was a significant step toward creating a vibrant community in the classroom. I also remember her pushing us to make interesting projects, that varied in scope and material. Even with a limited budget, we managed to learn about things ranging from ceramics, to printmaking, to bookbinding. Mrs. McElroy was someone who could really see the potential in students and push them to do the best that they could. By mixing up the projects and media, she created opportunities for students to succeed that would have been daunted by just drawing and painting."
Editor's Note: McElroy also inspired her own son, Christopher McElroy, a glass artist in Seattle, Wash., where he has served as a teaching assistant at the Pilchuck Glass School. He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and has studied extensively at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. www.christophermcelroy.com
-- Teacher Bandy Brownlee: Inspiring Voices