Teaching wasn’t part of Keytsa Bishop’s original plan as an artist. She envisioned herself selling art and working as a graphic artist. Then she had a revelation.

“I started to learn how powerful art is by sharing it and seeing how I can make a difference in other people’s lives,” says the Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron art teacher whose giving spirit was celebrated on March 17 in front of some 20,000 basketball fans. Standing at center court at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Bishop received the NBA team’s prestigious Head of the Class award before the Cavs’ game against the Washington Wizards.

The award does not come as a surprise to those familiar with Bishop’s caring teaching style.

“The calm, safe atmosphere alone that she creates in her classroom speaks volumes about the high-quality teacher that she is,” says Summit Academy Executive Director of Special Education Erica Richley-Duda, MSEd, LPCC-S, CCTP.

Inside Bishop’s classroom, students find self-confidence and success. Whether it’s printmaking, painting or making cards for community neighbors in need, the classroom art projects seem to bring out the best in students.

Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron Head of the Class-honored teacher, Keytsa Bishop, with NBA players Jordan Goodwin of the Wizards (left) and Mamadi Diakite with the Cavs (right), prior to the March 17 Cavs-Wizards game.

“I really appreciate working at Summit because a lot of our kids have special needs. Seeing them excel in art, taking a project from start to finish, is truly a gift to them and me,” Bishop says. “ I hope to build their self-confidence so that they can see their own successes and do great things.”

The Head of the Class award honors Northeast Ohio educators who make a difference in students’ lives inside and outside of the classroom. Head of the Class recipients ensure academic success for their students, engage in their school community and set an example for students and peers. For this and more, Bishop credits her school community, including colleagues such as IEP Coordinator Sarah Pavis for being a driving force behind community outreach projects and Principal Ralph Grant for leading his team with kindness and support.

“Mr. Grant encourages a positive environment and teamwork. I appreciate being part of a great team at Akron Secondary,” Bishop says. “Teaching is challenging but it’s easier when you feel like you are appreciated and supported by administration. If you are in an encouraging environment it’s easier to grow, bloom and plant seeds of positivity into your students. Our attitudes truly reflect those of leadership.”

In addition to a commemorative, glass keepsake, Bishop received a $500 gift card for classroom expenses. She plans to use the card to buy paints, brushes, paper and a few specialty items for projects for the rest of the school year. Bishop says she greatly welcomes the gift card, noting the high cost of art supplies and the monetary relief the gift will bring to her classroom and school.