By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Harker Heights High School can boast one of the best art teachers in the United States.
Alice Taylor received the College Board Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts, one of just six Advanced Placement art teachers in the nation to receive the honor.
The art teacher, whose award earned $3,000 to promote Killeen ISD visual arts, said she applied for the award to spread the word about the school district's rich art course offerings and talented students.
It's not just magnet schools in large urban areas that turn out top students, she said, pointing out the art designs of her own students that decorate her Harker Heights High School classroom.
"This is not about being a super teacher," Taylor said, pointing out that no one investigated her instruction skills before giving her the award. "It's a result of the kids' work."
KISD Fine Arts Director Sheila Donahue praised Taylor's award.
"I'm delighted for her," she said. "It thrills me that the College Board recognizes her high level of creativity in teaching."
The College Board assesses advanced placement tests that high school students take in order to achieve college credit after completing high-level AP courses.
Nationally, about 50 percent of students taking AP tests score 3 or above, resulting in college credit. Students in Taylor's AP art classes achieve a 3 or better 97 percent of the time.
That, the teacher said, is indicative of the artistic talent of students in this area.
Taylor said she shares the views of the College Board that AP courses are for any student willing to put in the work, not just for the top intellectuals.
Taylor's selection letter from the College Board notes the bridge between fine arts and the Killeen ISD's Career and Technology Center.
The Harker Heights teacher said she hopes the bridge will grow longer, with even more students taking advantage of visual arts, sculpting, animation and video game design courses offered in KISD, particularly with the Career Academy slated to open in 2012.
"This program is an exemplary and innovative use of the AP Studio Art course; it clearly promotes access and equity, while arming students with the creative and critical thinking skills they will need to be career and college ready," the College Board letter states.
"I hope interest will translate to the media center (in the planned Career Academy) and students will see we're offering college-level AP art courses. That's the whole reason I did it, to promote the program."
Students taking the AP-level 2D art class, or visual art, must produce a 24-piece art portfolio. Taylor posts the student work on her personal art website.
"These kids are talented and they work hard," she said, pointing out that the visual arts don't have the kind of natural performance venues that choir, band and theater have.
Locally, KISD's visual art students showcase their work annually in an art show at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. This year's event is scheduled Feb. 28 to March 5.
To see Taylor's students' artwork, go to www.animationtaco.com.