Athanasia Kyriakakos

It seems like arts programs in schools are often associated with cuts in recent years, and Baltimore City Schools have been one of a number of battlegrounds on that front. So it’s especially good news that an art teacher from Baltimore won Maryland’s Teacher of the Year.

Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, was awarded the honor on Friday night in Baltimore. Known as Sia, Kyriakakos was recognized for her work to teach children to believe in themselves through art education.

“I give my students a toolkit of strategies to help them reach their potential in art and also in their lives,” she said in a statement. “Together, we become cultural ambassadors and break the boundaries of poverty, the restrictions set upon them by the adversity of living in an urban environment — and we do it all through art.”

She also remains a working artist, and includes student work in her exhibits.

Kyriakakos was the second straight Baltimore City teacher to win the award, following Ryan Kaiser of Mt. Washington last year. The honoree gets cash, a new car, technology equipment, travel opportunities and a chance to compete in the National Teacher of the Year.

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Technical.ly Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.