maggie peeno

Maggie Peeno (center) poses with Daniel McKeown (left) and Penny Collins next to one of the adinkra symbols they painted at Johnson-Wabash Elementary School in Ferguson, Mo. Peeno was recently named a distinguished fellow by the National Art Education Association. (Photo by August Jennewein)

If you’re an exemplary art teacher for 40 years, accolades come with the job.

For the years that Maggie Peeno taught in the Clayton and University City school districts, she received both formal honors and informal admiration from students and parents. But this spring, she received one of the highest honors an art teacher can receive when the National Art Education Association named her a distinguished fellow.

“There were approximately 4,500 art teachers at this conference, and it was a real honor to have these people stand up and recognize me for my work,” Peeno said.

The fellow distinction recognizes a member of the association who has provided exemplary leadership to the association and the profession of art education.

Back in St. Louis, Peeno is still active in the world of art education. She supervises art education majors from the University of Missouri–St. Louis who are doing their student teaching, and does extensive volunteer work in the community. Jean Miller, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, said Peeno’s recognition is significant, especially given her position of advising future art teachers at UMSL.

“For Professor Maggie Peeno to be recognized by her peers in the National Art Education Association is impressive,” Miller said. “It acknowledges the scope of her work and the commitment she has to students, art education, and the larger community.”

During the 2013-14 school year, Peeno received a grant on behalf of the university to paint murals supporting character education in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. UMSL art education students assisted her in designing and installing the adinkras, which are African symbols each representing a trait related to character education. In addition to painting them at Johnson-Wabash Elementary School, she is working on a similar project at Central Elementary School.

Art instruction is integral to building students’ critical thinking skills and perceptions of their environments.

“To be a well-rounded citizen, you not only need science and math, but you also need fine arts,” Peeno said. “You need to nourish the left and right sides of the brain. It helps decision-making skills and to create critical thinkers who can read someone else’s writing and be able to synthesize different opinions and viewpoints.”

Dan McKeown, a teacher at Johnson-Wabash Elementary, said that he originally met Peeno when he was a student 40 years ago. Now as a teacher, he relished creating the murals at the elementary school where he teaches.

The murals have been popular with teachers, students and administrators, McKeown said. The success is indicative of Peeno’s talent as an artist and her perceptiveness of other people.

“She’s intuitive and extremely artistic and extremely gifted,” he said. “She’s a people person, but also an outstanding artist.”

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Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb

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