Awards luncheon celebrates visual, performing arts
Posted on 05/22/2019

The 18th annual OCPS and Kessler Grand Bohemian Hotel Scholarship Awards luncheon recognized the outstanding efforts of 10 visual or performing arts teacher finalists.

In 2002, Richard Kessler and the Grand Bohemian Scholarship Committee established this scholarship program as a way to support excellence in teaching fine arts. The awards provide funds for teacher professional growth.

The 2019 Kessler Grand Bohemian Fine Arts Scholarship winners receive a $1,500 stipend, crystal award and two night stay at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando for two. They are:

Visual Arts Elementary: Vivian Alfonso, Whispering Oak Elementary School. She wrote, "I believe art is an extension of self and completing an art piece means you are also laboring through some aspect of your development as a student and as a person. The art process is as important as the final product. Every week I feature art work of a student in the school that has made improvements or has employed great effort in their work."

Visual Arts Secondary: Joshua Freeman, Olympia High School, who said, "My motivation for excellence in teaching stems from my own artistic obsession with clay, which overflows and spills into my classroom and my own artwork. It is my belief that the most crucial elements for success in an art studio environment are inspiration, experimentation, productivity, perseverance and adaptability."

Music - Elementary: Darlene Grande, Eagle Creek Elementary School. Grande wrote, "What motivates me to excel in teaching is my passion to create connections and build relationships through music education within my faculty, students and community. I want my students to be able to tell their story through music, and to leave their legacy through the fine arts."

Music - Secondary: Kyle Tolar, Cypress Creek High School, said, "What motivates me to excel at teaching is realizing day-by-day and year-by-year, the true impact we have on our students. That alone is enough to keep me going and continually teach that the most important things in life and one thing they can always control, is to be kind, and be a good person. No matter where life takes them, they can't go wrong having that instilled in them."

Drama / Dance: Gail Chase, Lake Nona High School, wrote, "Theatre is all about elevating the human condition and the best way I can contribute to that is to continue to cultivate an environment of collaborative learning, sharing and creating so my students can be their most authentic selves. In doing so, I believe I am teaching my students that learning doesn't stop when you leave a classroom, and my hope is that they too will be lifelong lovers of learning."

The runner’s up receive dinner for two at the Boheme Restaurant. They are:

Visual Arts Elementary: Jeffrey Mcclish, Sally Ride Elementary School

Visual Arts Secondary: Clinton McCracken, Howard Middle School

Music - Elementary: Denise Mills, Lake Whitney Elementary School

Music - Secondary: Justin Chase, Lake Nona High School

Drama/Dance: Melaney Douglass, University High School

Last year’s award recipients’ growth plans

Lisa Arnold, Ocoee ES, explored several garden paths, labyrinths and art therapy programs. Her visits inspired an initiative she drafted, incorporating community support in transforming empty green space adjacent to the school playground to one that merges reflection, nature and sensory arts to encourage the positive emotional mental health of the elementary students.


Abbey Callaway, Dr. Phillips HS, purchased an iPad Pro to further develop her skills in digital art-making. She is using this knowledge and experience to help her advanced level art students grow their understanding of digital arts.

Kathy Follensbee, Dr. Phillips HS, studied Yin Yoga. She saw this as a "full circle" moment and cannot express enough gratitude for the opportunity to take part in seeking help for herself. Her investigations into Yin Yoga enabled her to share important mind-body connections with her students.


Chriss Rehm, Brookshire ES, used a portion of her scholarship to attend the Florida Music Education Association Conference. As a lifelong middle school teacher adjusting to teaching elementary school music, she found the sessions invaluable. The remaining dollars are being used to attend the Meera Buy Women’s Leadership conference this summer. This innovative retreat involves artistic development, leadership and networking with some of the biggest names in choral music.


Michael Antmann, Freedom HS, had the opportunity to attend the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop in Louisville, Kentucky. He spent a week learning jazz improvisation from renowned jazz artists and leaders in jazz education. Antmann not only learned from this experience, but it also reminded him of how much he enjoys making music.