-by Svetla Tomanova
In April, the Teacher of the Year committee named the finalists of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2023 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The spotlight today is on the second finalist. More to follow in this series of profiles about each candidate. The citywide winner will be announced later this week.
Mary “Molly” Harrison is an art teacher at Rosemont Elementary School, chosen by her colleagues to be 2023 Rosemont’s Teacher of the Year.
The Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ (VBCPS) alumna has a family legacy in both art and education. Inspired by her father, a longtime VBCPS employee now retired, and grandmother, a successful artist, Harrison’s equal love for art and education commenced at a very young age, and she continued to “nurture her talents” through high school and later at James Madison University.
“Her passion for teaching, service and art was an organic part of her upbringing,” said Rosemont Elementary principal, Carl A. Hall, and marveled that “her teaching has transformed into a work of art as well.”
Although Harrison is still at the onset of her career, she “has grown into a respected leader” according to her colleague Sara Biehl.
Principal Hall pointed out that Harrison “has taken on many leadership roles at Rosemont” such as Summer Jam/sunshine committee chair, community liaison and grade-level chair. Beyond the classroom, Harrison has served on citywide art show committees, Girls on the Run, and Title I Summer Learning Camp.
In her Teacher of the Year application, Harrison shared that her “greatest contribution to Rosemont has been bringing art not only into the art room but into the hallways, community and lives of (my) students.” In the art room, Harrison gives her pupils the opportunities to experience various mediums and explore art from around the world and throughout history.
“She makes learning fun and exciting by creating lessons that are relatable and engaging,” her colleague, Katrina Roth, wrote in her recommendation letter.
While every student’s artwork is sported in the hallways at Rosemont Elementary School, Harrison selects 30 exemplary works and enters them into different citywide art shows every year. From the Winter Art Exhibit at Pembroke Mall to the Youth Art Month display at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, students’ artwork is celebrated around the community.
What’s more, under Harrison’s guidance, Rosemont’s students crafted greeting cards with encouraging messages in different languages for Operation Smile patients around the world.
“I know I am instilling a passion for art through all these experiences,” wrote Harrison in her Teacher of the Year submission.
She also fostered the Kindness Rocks Project, where every student at Rosemont painted rocks with inspirational messages and sayings to spread joy and lift others around the community.
She mentors and empowers young girls through the Girls on the Run program and spreads her love of art in collaboration with science, math and even musical activities, enhancing student learning and family engagement.
Today, the art room continues to be a bright, colorful and welcoming space where students are inspired to explore and create.
“It is my passion and my calling to give students artful experiences that I know will have an impact on their lives and future,” said Harrison.