Courtesy Maryland Public Schools/Twitter

One Baltimore high school art instructor is carrying on Maryland’s legacy of having inspiring, nationally recognized teachers.

Athanasia “Sia” Kyriakakos has been teaching art at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School near Lake Montebello since 2014. This past fall, she made Baltimore proud by being named Maryland’s Teacher of the Year, becoming the second Baltimore teacher in a row to earn the state honor.

As of Monday, Kyriakakos is now one of four finalists tapped for the national Teacher of the Year Award. She joins educators from California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin in the final four and is the fifth Maryland teacher to be named a national finalist since 2006.

Kyriakakos is currently in her sixth year of teaching in the Baltimore City school system. She was well-traveled before she started working here, having been a teacher in Connecticut and Chicago and held position in Sweden and Greece. She has a master’s in fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a bachelor’s degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a teaching certification from Central Connecticut State University.

In a statement shared by the Council of Chief State School Officers, Kyriakakos said, “proving to parents that their children can achieve, we break down the wall of mistrust urban families often have with the education system.”

State officials are touting Kyriakakos’ commitment to her students as a key to her success.“One of her former students wrote that Sia opened her eyes and gave her hope in the future. There is no better description of great teaching,” said State Superintendent Karen Salmon in a statement.

A panel will interview Kyriakakos and the other finalists in March. The White House will announce the winner in May.

Given the all-too-common story of cuts in art funding in public schools, Baltimore appears to bringing in plenty good news recently for the city’s student artists. If having a nationally recognized art instructor isn’t enough, there’s also an infusion of funding and a new film program for the Baltimore School for the Arts and partnerships to keep the music alive in City Schools.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...