Notre Dame art teacher receives ‘Inspiring’ award

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, Notre Dame visual arts teacher Sandy LewAllen received the inaugural "Inspiring High School Teacher Award" at the 2018 Scholastic Art awards ceremony, which was held at the Detroit Film Theatre.

According to Amy Armand, who is the director of recruitment for Detroit's College for Creative Studies and regional coordinator for the Scholastic Art Awards competition, LewAllen, who also serves as Notre Dame's visual and performing arts chair, was nominated by her students after the 2017 competition.

"Last year, after the exhibits and ceremonies were over, I reached out to all students who had participated and asked if they would complete a survey to nominate a teacher who went above and beyond — to help them, push them, mentor them, and inspire them," Armand said. "I figured it's about time to start recognizing teachers like Sandy who go that extra mile all the time."  

Armand said that out of all the nominations that she received, the stories about LewAllen from her students touched her the most. "Congratulations to her on this well-deserved honor!"

"We've always worked hard to make sure the program is one that students and teachers can all be proud of, and that there are no barriers to enter for any student who wants to participate," Armand added. "However, I realize that if it wasn't for dedicated teachers like Sandy Lewallen, there would be no program at all."    

Art students from LewAllen's classes last year weigh in on their teacher.

The following is a sampling of those responses forwarded to Armand last year by Notre Dame art students. . . 

"Instead of letting me off the hook with a decent drawing, she expected more, but those high expectations pushed me to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. Slowly but surely, I began to notice details in the world around me that I never saw before she showed them to me. During each new project, she has never expected anything less than my best, but it also taught me not to expect anything less than the best from myself."

"Ms LewAllen spends countless hours outside of normal class time to help all of her art students. She is not only an art teacher, but also a role model and a mother figure. She is always there to talk things out if you are having a bad day."

"She fosters creativity and nurtures each and every one of us. Her devotion to her students is authentic."

"She has given me the confidence I need to be a successful artist. I have seen so many other students blossom and flourish under her guidance and she is truly the best art teacher I've ever had." 

"Beyond art itself, Ms LewAllen has an extraordinary talent to connect with students in a way that not only results in great art in class, but in kinder and better people as a whole. I cannot describe just how much she has impacted myself and others. . .and I am so thankful she has been a part of my life. While she has inspired myself and my classmates to become better artists, she has also inspired us to be better people as a whole."

Fr. Joe Hindelang, s.m., principal of Notre Dame's upper school, said that being named an "Inspiring High School Teacher" came as a surprise to LewAllen. But, he said, it was even more meaningful to her because it was based on comments from her students. 

"It is good that they recognize how much she cares about each of them, about their learning, growth and success," Hindelang said. "While others notice how much she does so generously for others on a daily basis — especially her students — to Sandy these are just typical days of being a teacher at a Catholic and Marist school."

Student-artists from Notre Dame earned 50 awards in the latest Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition for the Southeastern Michigan region, beating last year's 45 awards for NDP, which was a huge increase from the 2016 school record of 27 awards.

According to LewAllen, earning 50 awards tops the number of awards ever won at Notre Dame Prep and is one of the largest groups from any school in the region, including very large public schools, including Stoney Creek and Novi. “I couldn't be any more proud of all of our art students and their efforts,” she said.

The awards include 20 Gold Keys, 14 Silver Keys, 16 Honorable Mentions and one Gold Key Portfolio.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have an impressive legacy dating back to 1923. Over the years, the awards have grown to become the longest-running, most prestigious program for creative teens in the U.S., and the nation’s largest source of scholarships for creative young artists and writers. A noteworthy roster of past winners includes Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King and John Updike.

Comments or questions?

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at