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Mervo art teacher named Baltimore City Teacher of the Year

Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, was named Baltimore city teacher of the year. (Colin Campbell and Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun video)

Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School, was awarded the Baltimore City Teacher of the Year award Monday.

The honor comes with a cash award and classroom supplies provided through the Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke Endowment Fund at the Fund for Educational Excellence, the school system said.

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She will also throw the first pitch at an Orioles game this season.

Grinning in her classroom, Kyriakakos said she interprets the award as a referendum on art's place in schools.

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"The arts are coming back with a vengeance," she said. "That's what it means to me. It's about time."

Mervo Principal Craig Rivers said Kyriakakos deserved the coveted honor for her impact and advocacy throughout the school, where hallways are decked out with her students' artwork.

"It's obvious as you walk through the building," he said. "You see the impact on the physical building, but you see the impact that she's had on the students, their confidence."

"She is an advocate for the arts," he added. "She believes that every student, no matter where you are, should experience the arts."

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Arts equity is a "civil rights issue," Kyriakakos said. Mervo supports the arts, she said, but in other schools, teachers must buy their own supplies.

"Why shouldn't they have art?" she said. "Why shouldn't they have everything other schools have?"

Kyriakakos said she infuses her art classes with life lessons that will serve her students well beyond whatever charcoal sketch or sculpture they're working on that day.

"In the class here, we teach how to work hard, perservere, build resilience ... focus, mindfulness, all these things they need to be successful citizens. I teach it," she said. "That's why they need art. They don't need one art class, they need five."

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