September 28, 2020
Sarah Daniels had no plans to be a teacher. But, as she puts it, teaching found her.
Daniels, now in her 10th year teaching Art at Badin High School, has been named the school’s Educator of the Year in the 18th annual Harry T. Wilks “Hamilton Celebrates Education” program, sponsored by the Hamilton Community Foundation.
“I didn’t even want to be a teacher,” said Daniels, a graduate of Monroe High School and the Design, Art and Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati. “Maybe a stand-up comic,” she says with her typical dry wit, “or an art director at an ad agency.”
“Teaching chased me for a long time and didn’t give up,” added Daniels, who previously taught for eight years at St. Julie Billiart School in Hamilton and was, in fact, the nominee from that now-closed Catholic elementary school the very first year the Harry T. Wilks “Hamilton Celebrates Education” awards were presented.
“Sarah Daniels brings so much creativity to Badin High School,” Badin Principal Brian Pendergest remarked. “She’s a tremendously talented person who brings out the best in her students.”
“Badin has offered me the opportunity to help our students see the real difference they can make in our community and beyond,” Daniels said. “They embrace a challenge, and are open to the possibilities in all that they do.”
Among the projects that Daniels’ students have tackled over the years are painting rain barrels to raise money for Save Local Waters. They created more than 120 pairs of custom painted athletic shoes for the underprivileged, a project that earned major support from the Fairfield Community Foundation. They have created more than 100 art kits for children in the community who did not have access to art supplies. Their ongoing efforts with the InsideOut Studio have led to Daniels accepting a spot on that organization’s oversight board, the Inspiration Studio board.
“I definitely try to be energetic and enthusiastic,” said Daniels, a Hamilton resident who is married with adult twin daughters. “If a teacher is not enthusiastic and happy, how can they ever expect their students to be?”
Daniels teaches the Art I-IV courses at Badin, including an Advanced Placement class for seniors, but has added her own touch with one-semester classes like Fashion Illustration and Art Exploration.
Her dynamic efforts have had the work of Badin High art students displayed in galleries all over Greater Cincinnati. One such student, Regan Runtz ’20, earned the top prize, the prestigious “Best of Show” award, at the annual “Tomorrow’s Artists Today” competition at the Middletown Arts Center in February.
“Art is the highest form of self-expression,” Daniels said. “Art speaks. It engages every viewer differently. It is about making people pause and think. And sometimes it makes their heart beat fast and takes them away.”
The “Educator of the Year” award recognizes educators from schools throughout the Greater Hamilton area. Each honored educator will receive a $1,000 grant for his or her school. While the annual dinner has been postponed for 2020, the Hamilton Community Foundation felt that it was important to recognize educators, particularly in this unprecedented environment.
“I have a list of 40 bits of advice I give my students,” Daniels said. “One is to listen to that little voice in your head. Another is, ‘Don’t ever wonder, what if?’ And most of all, share your talent. It is why God gives talent, after all.”
While the pandemic has required some adjustments to the in-person experience, Daniels is making the best of things.
“I have the unique opportunity to be able to engage daily with students one-on-one,” she said. “I try to remember that for one student, my class might be the best part of their day. How could I ever let them down?”
While Daniels is only five-feet tall, and typically clad all in black, she is a blur of energy throughout the school.
“Don’t ever say you don’t have enough time,” she said. “You have the same hours in the day as Einstein, Michelangelo and Bill Gates. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Sometimes, you only get one chance. Make it count.”
A number of Daniels’ students have gone on to art careers – as art teachers, but also as architects, art therapists, fashion designers, filmmakers, graphic designers, illustrators and more.
“When they email me about what they are doing post college, I couldn’t be more proud,” Daniels said. “I am so blessed to have played a small part in their journey.”
Contact: Dirk Q. Allen, Dallen@BadinHS.org or (513) 869-4490