Megan Jensen, right, East Aiken School of the Arts’ music teacher, gets a hug from art teacher Carrie Power following the school’s spring arts festival that Jensen directed.
After moving to South Carolina, Carrie Power attended a job fair for teachers in Charleston and soon was interviewing around the state for art teaching jobs before accepting an East Aiken School of the Arts position.
Almost immediately, Power emerged as a strong leader who encouraged and challenged students to develop a love for the arts.
Twenty-five years later, she was still bringing art to new generations of kids before taking an associate’s position with the S.C. Department of Education’s visual and performing arts office in October.
In that role, Power is managing arts curricula and focusing on SDE grants – a great opportunity, she said, to work at the state level on arts coordination administration.
“But the hardest thing is leaving the children,” she admitted. “I do miss them, and I miss the people I’ve worked with there.”
Power’s contributions to East Aiken have been remarkable. She played a key role in the Aiken County School District’s decision to designate East Aiken as a school of the arts. More recently, The school has been recognized as a magnet facility through its offerings of visual arts, choral opportunities, physical education, the dance, drama, creative writing instrumental instruction and a wide range of after-school programs.
Earlier this year, the S.C. Art Education Association named Power as the Art Educator of the Year – an award that “was long, long overdue,” said physical education teacher Kathy Linton.
In 2002, the teachers began serious discussions about arts integration in collaboration with other content areas.
“That’s a natural way for children to learn math, reading, science and social studies,” Power said. “It’s the hook that keeps them actively engaged as well as their teachers and parents.”
It didn’t happen overnight, she said, but the emerging arts programs changed the ecology of the school – how teachers and parents think about education and how their children learn and grow.
When Mary Lovvern, the now-retired principal, arrived at East Aiken in 2002, she was immediately impressed by the student artwork displayed throughout the school. Each piece was posted with academic and visual arts standards.
“Carrie Power was the amazing art teacher who curated the student artwork and created a museum atmosphere in this unique school,” Lovvern said via email.
Lisa Fallaw, now in her fourth year as principal, considers Power a visionary leader.
“Her passion for arts integration and the development of arts programs is truly inspirational and will serve her well at the State Department,” Fallaw said.
In recent years, visitors arriving at East Aiken for the first time can’t help but be startled and charmed by a giant robot “protecting” the front door. Parent David Ciani had built several robots – including a giant roach! – for the school in partnership with Power. Ciani also helped her art students build their own robots.
“The kids will learn the different sciences like biology and also math and some engineering,” Power said in an earlier interview.