VIDEO: Lucciola named R.I.'s Art Teacher of the Year

VIDEO: Lucciola named R.I.'s Art Teacher of the Year

NORTH PROVIDENCE - You don't stay in teaching this long if you don't love the students and the subject, says North Providence High School teaching sensation Patricia Lucciola.

"You can't do this without loving it," she says.

All that love apparently came through loud and clear for the judges from the Rhode Island Art Education Association, who decided that Lucciola is not only the art teacher of the year for secondary schools but the art teacher of the year for all schools in Rhode Island.

Lucciola told The Breeze she was overwhelmed enough when she got the news of the first win, after 24 years teaching at North Providence High School and 33 years in the district. But when the news came that she'd been selected as the top art educator in Rhode Island, the news seemed almost too good to be true.

"It was unbelievable," said Lucciola.

NPHS students talk about what makes Lucciola great:

Lucciola remained teaching even though she became eligible to retire back in 2009. She said she plans to continue teaching full-time for another year or two before going into private painting and perhaps teaching on a part-time basis.

So how does one stay in teaching for so many years?

"Find something you're passionate about and love to do, and if you can do that and find that, you'll never work a day in your life," says Lucciola. "I get paid to do it, but it's not really work."

Lucciola was nominated for the top educator award by Kathleen Lisi, chairwoman of the North Providence High School Business Department.

"She is an amazing teacher, extremely talented art teacher, and admired by all of her colleagues and students," said Lisi. She said she is "so proud" of all Lucciola's accomplishments, said Lisi, and after spending so much time in education, she truly deserves the award.

Hear students share in their own words why they love Lucciola as a teacher with this story at www.valleybreeze.com.

Students say it is Lucciola's passion for the subject and her caring about them personally both while they are in school and beyond that truly sets her apart from others. She follows the careers of many as they go on to become producers in Hollywood, toy designers at Hasbro, and even teachers themselves.

Why do students love her so much?

"I think I'm pretty patient," said Lucciola. "I kind of have a feeling that everybody has some type of artistic potential. I think everybody has something to offer artistically, and I try to find it."

Lucciola said she's always trying to give students the background and culture behind art, tying it together with history and other subjects in new and creative ways.

These students wouldn't be creating the art they're creating without the people who came before them, she said, and when that realization sets in, students learn to connect like never before.

Lucciola is adamant that art is not the lightweight subject that so many portray it as, but plays a vital role in society. Art can be found everywhere, from computer and clothing design to culinary arts and music.

"You can't get away from it," said Lucciola.

Born and raised in North Providence, Lucciola said she has no plans of leaving. She loves traveling the world but always comes home to spend time with her students, family and friends.

The idea to start teaching art was first born in her junior year at North Providence High, when art teacher Joan Bishop encouraged her to start teaching at the school. She was a good painter, said Bishop back then, so why not share her skills with others.

The judges who decided that Lucciola was the top art educator in Rhode Island evaluated a number of criteria, including years of service, community service done with students, grants obtained, scholarships received by students, portfolio work, professional accolades, and awards and achievements, among others.

"Your dedication and service to art education have been recognized as extraordinary," states Lucciola's awards letter.

"Thank you for implementing a model art education program that has increased community awareness of the importance of art education for all of Rhode Island's schoolchildren."