From keyboard and dance classes to graphic arts and photography, Mountain Pointe High School’s art department has a little bit of everything.

And that variety is getting them noticed: The Ahwatukee Foothills school has won the Phoenix Mayor’s School of Excellence Award for Outstanding Arts Education, and is now eligible to compete for recognition at the national level.

Phoenix started the award program four years ago. Schools must demonstrate they teach all artistic disciplines, incorporate arts education into other subjects, use creative approaches to learning and have high academic achievement, among other criteria, said Jocelyn Hanson, Phoenix’s director of arts education.

Mountain Pointe impressed the selection committee because of their creativity and commitment to the arts, Hanson said. Hanson was especially impressed that the school incorporated technology into various art forms and got students involved in a wide variety of activities, including creating the school’s nomination video.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the learning experience they provide for the kids,” she said.

Mountain Pointe certainly has a variety of artistic opportunities. Walking around the school at 11 a.m., you can see groups of students learning guitar in one room, practicing percussion in another, creating ceramic pots and appetizer platters near big kilns and learning how to create a digital backdrop in a graphic arts classroom.

All told, there are 12 performing and visual arts teachers at the school, said assistant principal Pat Goolsby. They teach a total of 50 sections of art classes covering 19 disciplines in music, dance, theater and visual arts.

And the school doesn’t stop there. After class, there are a huge variety of arts clubs that meet, ranging from blues guitar to a tie dye club. Sponsors of those clubs usually teach other academic subjects during the day, Goolsby said.

“It permeates our school. It’s not just one department,” Goolsby said.

Teacher Matt Henry said it’s great to be recognized for the arts at Mountain Pointe.

Henry, who teaches choir, guitar and piano, said the school’s art program sticks out because it’s so well-rounded.

“Usually there’s one group that stands out,” Henry said. “It’s nice that the recognition gets spread out among the performing arts groups.”

Suzanne Idler, who teaches computer graphics arts and English, said that variety is one reason she’s proud of the arts program, too.

“You don’t have to be pigeonholed in anything,” said Idler, who has also taught drama and ceramics in the past. “We have students do graphic arts and photography because they see value in both.”

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is scheduled to present the award and a $1,000 check from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to the school on April 23.

The Arizona Alliance for Arts Education will also nominate Mountain Pointe for a national arts education award next year. That award is given out by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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