Educator of the Year: UNK’s Kosmicki shares passion for art with future teachers

UNK faculty member Christy Kosmicki was recently named the Nebraska Art Teachers Association Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)
UNK faculty member Christy Kosmicki was recently named the Nebraska Art Teachers Association Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)

By TYLER ELLYSON
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Christy Kosmicki has her own way of measuring academic success – and it has nothing to do with standardized test scores.

She believes students should be imaginative and self-expressive, instead of focusing all their energy on finding the “right answer.”

“That’s why we need art educators, because they teach kids that ability to visualize and problem-solve and be creative,” Kosmicki said.

The Minden native has spent most of her life sharing her passion for art with others, first as a high school teacher then as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“My mother always said that she thought I was going to be a teacher,” Kosmicki said. “Sometimes people just come wired a certain way, and evidently I had an affinity for teaching and instructing and helping. It must have been a natural fit.”

Kosmicki, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education from UNK and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and mixed media from Fort Hays State University, landed her first job at Holdrege High School, where she stayed for 33 years.

During that time, she also spent 10 years as an adjunct faculty member at UNK before accepting a full-time lecturer position in the department of art and design in 2015.

“I think I was ready for a new challenge,” Kosmicki said of the transition.

Although she enjoyed her career in Holdrege, where she continues to reside with her husband Don, Kosmicki viewed the UNK job as an opportunity to dive deeper into the profession.

“Rather than just sharing theory, I can actually talk about application of theory and what best practice really looks like,” she said. “That’s why I really like teaching on this level. You get to prepare that next generation of teachers, which is pretty exciting.”

Outside of a general studies art appreciation course, Kosmicki works mainly with students who will become elementary teachers or secondary art instructors. Her goal, she said, is to prepare these students as best she can so they’re confident, comfortable and ready to succeed after graduation.

“I love the opportunity to see people grow, the opportunity to encourage them and mentor them,” she said. “I think I get just as much back from students as I put into it. I just love their energy.”

Kosmicki’s dedication to art education hasn’t gone unnoticed.

She was recently named the Nebraska Art Teachers Association Higher Education Art Educator of the Year, adding another plaque to her collection. Kosmicki has twice received the group’s Outstanding Art Educator of the Year and Secondary Art Educator of the Year honors, and she was presented the Roscoe Shields Service Award for her commitment to art education through leadership and service.

“It’s always special to be affirmed by your peers,” said Kosmicki, who has served on the Nebraska Art Teachers Association Executive Board since 1990. “I’m also humbled by the award, because there are lots of fabulous art educators out there.”

Many of them, she noted, are colleagues at UNK.

“It’s a good place to be because I’m surrounded by really talented people who have the same mindset that I do about how important education is and how important art is,” Kosmicki said.

In addition to her teaching duties and adviser role for the National Art Education Association Student Chapter at UNK, Kosmicki is also an active artist who has won numerous awards in painting, mixed media and sculpture. Her work is represented at The Burkholder Project in Lincoln, where she has been featured in several exhibitions.

To be an effective visual arts educator, Kosmicki says, one must continually be involved in the creative process and demonstrate a desire to improve.

“Hopefully it inspires my students to do that, too,” she said.

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