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Chris Cooper. PHOTO via SMCISD

STAFF REPORT

San Marcos High School teacher Chris Cooper has received the 2011 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award from Humanities Texas.

The annual award is intended to honor those who have made exemplary contributions in teaching, curriculum development and extracurricular programming. Nearly two hundred and thirty teachers across the state were nominated for the 2011 awards.

Cooper will receive a $5,000 cash award, with an additional $500 for San Marcos High School to purchase instructional materials.

Cooper teaches advanced placement art history, and humanities and visual arts. She serves as chair of the visual arts department, sponsors the National Art Honor Society and coordinates and facilitates graduation annually.

“(Cooper) has the gift of not only connecting the art to the history but connecting it to students’ lives,” said Jess Meyer, world history teacher at San Marcos High School. “The students leave her class with a deep appreciation of the role art plays in society: how it both changes society and reflects society’s deepest conflicts.”

Cooper’s interdisciplinary classroom activities and projects weave together art, literature, world history and the performing arts. Students study and design projects based on literary themes and travel together to art museums to share their perspectives with each other.

“I believe that it is our charge as educators to give students experience in a wide range of individual disciplines, and then lead them in discovering how everything is really an interrelated part of the whole,” said Cooper. “We are obligated to give our children the opportunity to see how we all have an important place in our rich cultural web. We can each contribute to it in our lifetime and it will shape the future of mankind.”

An example of one of Cooper’s projects involved assigning her visual arts and English students with researching the history of local street names in San Marcos. The work also involved students interviewing long-time local historians and residents, and producing multimedia presentations and art projects based on their findings. The project earned San Marcos High School an Apple Education Grant, a Computerworld Smithsonian Technology Innovator award nomination, and its first art computer lab.

“We are pleased to recognize such an accomplished teacher,” said Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette. “Chris Cooper instills the joys of learning in her students and motivates them to achieve at high levels.”

The state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities Texas develops and supports programs across the state, including teacher institutes, lectures, oral history projects, museum exhibitions and documentary films.

Humanities Texas is currently accepting nominations for the 2012 Outstanding Teaching Awards. Additional information about Humanities Texas and its teacher award program is available at www.humanitiestexas.org.

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Humanities Texas board member Jesús Francisco de la Teja will present the award to Cooper at the high school on Nov. 21, at 3:30 p.m.

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