“I want my impact to be on my students, which is to teach my students to have a lifelong appreciation for art. I want them to have memories of art projects that they will want to share with their children. Art is life!” 

– Jennifer Bruton Sims, 2017-18 Kentucky Art Educator of the Year

Jennifer Bruton Sims was named the 2017-18 Art Educator of the Year by the Kentucky Art Education Association (KyAEA) at its annual conference. A 20-year veteran in Hart County schools, Sims teaches at Munfordville Elementary School.

Early in her career in Hart County, Sims was an itinerant teacher serving Munfordville, Bonnieville and Cub Run Elementary schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art education and a master’s degree in art education and art history from Western Kentucky University, and became a National Board Certified Teacher in art for early childhood to adolescence in 2007. 

KyAEA named Sims as the Elementary Art Teacher of the Year for 2003-04, the Middle School Art Teacher of the Year for 2010-11 and the Special Needs Teacher of the Year for 2015-16. She also was honored by the Hart County Chamber of Commerce with its Teacher of the Year award in 2008.

Sims said she couldn’t pick out just one proudest moment in her career.

“Each day that I get to share my love and passion for art is a proud and blessed day,” she said. “I get to experience what I have given to my students daily from the smiles on the students’ faces when they create something that they love, and even after students have left me and moved on, when I see them in the community and they tell me how much they enjoyed my class.” 

Sims’s philosophy about teaching art is simple: Art and art education is a way of life that allows people to express themselves whether they are young or old.

“Art defines who we are as individuals and a group’s culture. This is why teaching art is so important to me,” she said. “It allows me to teach students about other cultures through the artwork that a culture has created and left behind. It allows me to teach problem-solving skills, which helps students learn and grow creatively.

“It has always been important to me to help students feel success. For some students, the art room is the only area where students can find success. Teaching art also allows me the opportunity to help students make connections to many other content areas.”

Besides teaching at Munfordville Elementary, Sims is an associate professor of art for Western Kentucky University. She said she tells future teachers that it’s important for them to build their art program as a visible resource for their students and their schools.

“Teach each day to make an impact,” Sims said. “Teaching is like going on stage for each lesson and in each class. Teach like a rock star, make a lasting positive impression on your students that will be remembered. You want to make sure that the students, parents and school can’t do without your program.”

Munfordville Elementary School Principal Anthony Boone said Sims importance to the school reaches far beyond her classroom.

“Personally, Mrs. Sims has been a key player in making my transition from a high school social studies teacher to being the building principal successful,” Boone said. ”She is very open to sharing her knowledge of schedules and the related arts with me and how to make it all work. I appreciate her as a veteran teacher that is an active participant in our school on multiple levels.”  

Assistant Principal Schellye Norris agreed with Boone.

“Mrs. Sims is a dedicated, passionate teacher,” Norris said. “She loves art and it is evident in her classroom, as well as her studio. She is resourceful in finding ways to bring art to her students and the tools she and the students need to create. Our students are lucky she is a part of the Munfordville family!”

Along with being a teacher, Sims is a working artist, with her artwork in galleries in Bowling Green and Louisville. She is co-owner of Sims Studios and Art Shop in Horse Cave with her husband, artist Jesse Sims. Sims also has served on the Education Advisory Committee for the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center in Bowling Green and on the Board of Directors for KyAEA.