Shelley Self

Shelley Self

Winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching

Shelley Self, winner of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, is a National Board Certified teacher who has taught art at Coweta High School for 29 years. Her impact in arts education reaches far beyond the students in her classroom, said Kathleen Blake, an Oklahoma City arts educator. “She is an over-the-top secondary teacher … committed to advancing the arts in her school, community and our state.”  

Whether she is teaching a first-time art student or helping an Advanced Placement student develop a portfolio for college credits, Self seeks to be a catalyst, “nudging students to question, to take risks and to rise to a higher level of artistic development.” She challenges students to discover creativity through researching, expanding their experiences, sharpening their synthesizing skills and discovering more about themselves. “In Shelley’s classroom, there is a written component to every project,” says colleague Jennifer Deal. “She believes students need to think … about what decisions they made and why, analyzing the work based on things like materials, processes, ideation and their application of the elements and principles of design.”

Self seeks out opportunities for students to showcase their talents and serve the community through their art. Her students have participated in the Lowell Milken Center for UnSung Heroes Art Effect Competition, a national initiative that honors lesser known heroes who changed history. Her Art Club students paint the windows of local businesses each Christmas, provide face painting for carnivals and sporting events, and host an annual Family Glaze Night for the community to glaze ceramics. Last Christmas, her Art Club was honored to represent Oklahoma by creating Christmas ornaments for the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

As a state leader in arts education, Self has been a mentor to countless art teachers and has served several years on the committee for Young Talent in Oklahoma, a juried high school art exhibition and senior portfolio competition. Self is the recipient of numerous teaching honors, including Oklahoma Art Educator of the Year and the Milken National Educator Award. Many of her former students have gone on to become artists, art educators and arts advocates.

“I have seen former students come back to visit her and share the impact her instruction has made on them and now, through them, is making on individuals she may never meet,” said colleague Kathleen Sanders.