Raul F. Garcia, principal of Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay, received the Dade Art Educators Association (DAEA) Paul Heithaus Outstanding Administrator Award on Oct. 8. The presentation took place at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
The Dade Art Educators Association Inc. is a group of Miami-Dade art educators, artists, retired teachers and community art leaders who are committed to promoting, advocating and enriching the lives of their students and members through the visual arts in Miami-Dade County.
Jenifer Berse, a magnet art teacher at Southwood, nominated Garcia for the honor and speaks highly of him and his efforts on behalf of his students.
“Mr. Garcia has been at Southwood Middle School for two short years now, and the amount of time and attention he has devoted to the arts is like nothing any of us has ever seen,” Berse said.
“Instead of strictly looking at students as data, Mr. Garcia has embraced all of the arts, and has provided countless opportunities for teachers of the arts, as well as all students.” Burse said that Garcia encourages teacher and students to get out of the building for field experiences, and as a result more field trips have been taken than ever before.
“Something truly in support of the arts, is he had all of the Visual Arts teachers conduct a Professional Development Day to introduce the entire staff to ways art could be used in cross-curricular ways, by providing hands on learning,” Burse added. “The entire staff gained a new appreciation for the art teachers, and as you know, that can be a huge issue at most schools. It was important to him that our colleagues understand how much we contribute to learning as well.”
Garcia, when contacted after receiving the award, was very appreciative.
“It’s a truly humbling honor,” Garcia said. “Seeing the students flourish in their artistic ability is something I love being a part of…is something I cherish. The thing about our art program — I’ve been inside those classrooms — people would pay major money to be part of that, and it’s free because it’s a public school. It’s truly amazing.
“There’s a direct correlation, as students develop their artistic talent they become passionate about school as a whole and their academic work improves. Our superintendant, Alberto Carvalho, supports our magnet program and our success is a direct result of his support. We’re blessed in having the best art teachers you can find. Ms. Khan, Ms. Berse and Ms. McKimley and our magnet lead are just outstanding.”