Three Southland teachers shared the 1988 Bravo award, given annually by the Music Center for outstanding achievement in arts education.
At a ceremony Monday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Music Center honored Taffy Patton, who incorporates the arts into her sixth-grade curriculum at Vena Magnet School in Pacoima, Barrie Becker, who teaches dance at a juvenile court school in Los Angeles, and Phila McDaniel, who teaches art at Gardena High School.
According to Music Center spokeswoman Connie A. Rivera, this was the first time in the award’s seven-year history that three educators shared the prize. Usually two winners are named, one for incorporating the arts into a traditional classroom and one for achievement as an arts specialist. This year, two arts specialists were honored.
The three winners were chosen from 97 Southland educators nominated by their principals. Ten finalists were announced in December. Each finalist was observed in the classroom by a panel of judges before the winners were chosen. The judges were educators and artists, including a representative from the charitable JefferyMelamed Memorial Fund, which sponsors the competition.
Each of the Bravo winners received a statuette designed by artist William Crutchfield. The winners also received $500 gift certificates from Robinson’s and audio equipment from Audiotronics for their schools.
Patton, a Van Nuys resident, has been teaching for nine years. She was cited for the creativity with which she integrates the visual and performing arts into her Pacoima classroom.
“Taffy inspires us all,” Principal Diane Pritchard said. “I have never been in her class when the arts were not integrated into the entire program. That’s her basic concept.”
Patton was cited for such imaginative classroom activities as a mock trial of Galileo, combining history and science, that her students researched and dramatized. In background information Patton supplied to the Bravo award committee, she wrote: “The ideal teacher juggles academic skills in one hand and whimsical invention in the other.”
Wards of the Court
Becker, a Pasadena resident and veteran of 13 years in the classroom, teaches dance, drama and social studies to students at the Dorothy Kirby Center School, a juvenile court school located in a Los Angeles probation camp. Its 100 students are wards of the court who have been placed there because of involvement in criminal acts.
“Arts education is essential for the full growth and development of every human being,” Becker wrote to the Bravo award committee. “The last thing a student has on his mind upon entering Kirby Center is taking a dance class. But, hopefully, by the end of his stay, it will be among the first.”
A teacher for 33 years, Rancho Palos Verdes resident McDaniel was cited for her ability to help students realize their artistic potential. She was also lauded for her campaign to create an art museum on the Gardena campus, with the school’s extensive collection of paintings by California artists, collected since 1919, at its core. Also cited was her pioneering research on the folk art of the minority populations of China.
“I sincerely believe that the arts are basic to all educational programs at all levels of schooling and that art is not a frill, but truly the heart of education,” McDaniel wrote to the award committee. The Bravo award was “a huge thrill,” she said.