The Power of the Arts

Katie Larson

Art education Award-winners, from left to right, Tim Skutley, Kathryn Schiefelbein, Michele Wiberg, and Dr. Tim O’Reilly.
Art education Award-winners, from left to right, Tim Skutley, Kathryn Schiefelbein, Michele Wiberg, and Dr. Tim O’Reilly.

Individuals who go out of their way to ensure the arts don’t die in their schools deserve recognition for continuing to support the activities that enrich student’s lives. The Eau Claire school district has four middle school administrators who received the Distinguished Service Award at the 2016 Wisconsin Art Education Association conference held in La Crosse on Oct. 21. 

Showing a strong commitment to keeping the arts alive at DeLong Middle School, Dr. Tim O’Reilly, principal, demonstrates continuing support for art classes and events at all grade levels. As an ECASD employee for the past 28 years, O’Reilly made art into a required class for all sixth- and seventh-grade students, and he provides a popular art elective called The Eighth Grade Experience. In addition, he supports the staff members who go above and beyond by providing students with unique learning opportunities and ways to express themselves. He also pushed for adaptive experiences to ensure all students can benefit from the arts. 

Kathryn (Kit) Schiefelbein, assistant principal at Northstar Middle School, has also found ways to support the arts within her school. At a young age, Schiefelbein identified her mother’s talent for painting, but was never able to get her to recognize her own talents. On several occasions, Schiefelbein tried to persuade her mother to submit her work to local art shows but she would only share her talent with her family members. As the supervisor of the art department, Schiefelbein has taken a more personal approach to preserving the arts within the school’s curriculum and fostering an appreciation for the arts within the students.

Eau Claire native and product of the ECASD, Tim Skutley used his love for music to connect with the students as their music teacher at Memorial High School, South Middle School, and Northstar Middle School. His passion for music and the arts have served him well in his current position as the principal at Northstar. 

The last recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, Michele Wiberg, has served the school district in various capacities for the past 21 years. In her current role as the assistant principal at DeLong, Wiberg has worked hard on writing curriculum with the art department. In addition, Wiberg has helped to implement Arts at Large, a program that brings various local artists into the school. This program has become a catalyst for other great programs that are continued today. Wiberg is also a promoter of using art within general education classrooms as well. As stated, she feels it is her role as an administrator to help and encourage the staff to grow as professionals. “If they come up with an idea, I try hard to see how we can work together to make things work,” she explained. “What I don’t want to be is a roadblock to innovation.”

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