Katherine Fizz, an English teacher at Pinnacle High School, has been named a finalist in the Governor’s Arts Awards in the category of Arts In Education – Individuals.

“This award means a lot to me personally and professionally,” Fizz says. “This is very much a win for arts integration. To be a finalist as a general education teacher for integrating arts into my classroom, and thus integrating arts into my community, is an incredible achievement.”

“Preparing students for a successful future drives my unit planning; therefore, I have to continue to stay relevant and ask myself how to bridge gaps and build success in all students regardless of background or learning ability,” she continues. “We are all impacted by personal experiences, which consequently often play a role in creating our cultural biases. Integrating arts is one effective way to weave the thread of understanding between us and breaking down those biases.”

Arts-integrated projects that Fizz has incorporated into her English curriculum include works with: Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Opera, Phoenix Theatre, Scottsdale Arts, Mesa Arts Center, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Over the years, she has come to believe that using art to teach the curriculum strengthens students’ 21st-century skill sets, engages them in the content, builds community, and enlarges scales of value, thus building cultural literacy.

She explains her teaching philosophy: “It has been my responsibility to prepare students for jobs that have yet to be created in a world that is constantly changing. Every school year presents new opportunities with new batches of learners that are different and unique, each with something to teach me as well. Integrating the arts in my classroom invigorates my love of teaching, as using art to teach the curriculum strengthens my students’ 21st-century skill sets, engages students in the content, and builds community at my school. I use the arts to teach the curriculum to grow student understanding, thus building their cultural literacy. I have even taught some professional developments on how to integrate arts to my colleagues.”

Fizz credits a fellow teacher with her inspiration to expand the English curriculum to include integrated arts. “Years ago, I got a new teacher neighbor. The classroom was always full of music, laughing, and movement. I would peek my head in the window, wishing I was having as much fun as them. This teacher was kind enough to invite me in and show me that learning and achievement and fun and creativity had a place in my classroom, too. Ms. Heidi Cocco took me down the yellow brick road with her to show me the way. I am a better teacher as a result of her mentorship.”

Fizz started her career with PVSchools in 2007 and has been teaching English at Pinnacle High School for 10 years.