Fine Arts Instructional Specialist Andrew Watson, a leader in arts education in ACPS, Alexandria and beyond, has been named Supervisory Art Educator of the Year by the Virginia Art Education Association. As the head of the fine arts program at ACPS, he plays a vital role in making art accessible to all students in ACPS. An exemplary art educator, Watson ensures students receive quality art education and works to increase public awareness of the importance of art education.
Watson supervises more than 80 ACPS dance, music, theatre and visual arts teachers in delivering critical arts education to our students. He instituted Advanced Placement (AP) studio art courses, an arts therapy program, expanded summer arts programming, and city-wide cultural field trips for all students in grades three and four. He coordinates division-wide and school-based arts integration programs and coordinates with community and corporate partners to extend the reach and impact of arts programs. And, he provides professional development, coaching and curriculum support to classroom teachers to expand and enrich the integration of arts in the classroom.
As a five-year old, Watson recalls strolling through the Torpedo Factory Art Center on Alexandria’s waterfront, home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof. He was completely enthralled by the drawings, paintings and sculptures as he perused studio after studio and skipped up the winding staircase to see even more. It was at the Torpedo Factory that he realized he wanted to become an artist.
A high school student with undiagnosed learning disabilities, Watson immersed himself in the arts. It was through creative writing, theatre, chorus and the visual arts that he learned to express and gain confidence in himself. After an early career as a graphic designer and commercial photographer, Watson wanted to have more of an impact. So, he decided to pursue his teaching certification.
“While I enjoyed aspects of commercial art, I realized that I am inspired and fulfilled by helping others, not convincing them to buy more clothes. I went back to school for my teaching certification and have never regretted it,” said Watson
Watson spent ten years at the head of the classroom teaching art, photography and media art before taking a position designing the STEAM program for Fairfax County Public Schools. It was through this experience that Watson learned first-hand how administrators can be agents for change and address complex problems like structural inequity and create more engaging learning environments for students.
“While there is no more powerful role than the teacher in helping individual students, administrators support this work on a larger scale. I have the opportunity to collaborate with amazing teachers to grow a nurturing, inclusive, and forward-thinking community through the fine arts program,” said Watson.
Watson has served on boards advising the Torpedo Factory, Local Motion Studio, the NoVa Maker Faire, the Kennedy Center and the National Portrait Gallery. He has also worked on boards governing the National Art Honor Society and the Innovation Collaboration, which works to foster creativity, innovation, and lifelong learning. He’s a frequent speaker, author, and workshop leader for multiple arts education organizations, especially the National Art Education Association.