Briggs High School
Marcella Cua considers herself fortunate for having found her niche in life.
The visual-arts teacher at Briggs High School hasn't been teaching long, but already has made a big impact on students.
"I can honestly say I wake up every day looking forward to working, which I realize is a very rare thing in an adult," said Cua, who lives in German Village.
The profession would seem a natural choice for Cua, the daughter of a teacher, but it was something that came to her as she was finishing college at Miami University.
"I had these lofty dreams of working in a museum in Italy," said Cua, whose bachelor's degree is in Italian studies and art history.
As part of her curriculum, she spent six months overseas, learning all facets of museum history in Florence. One of the museums required outreach on art education to local schoolchildren.
"It kind of struck a chord," said Cua, who earned her teaching certificate in visual arts education from Ohio Dominican University in 2011.
Cua, 28, is lauded by her colleagues for her enthusiasm and dedication.
She is credited with bringing an Advanced Placement art history class to the high school, which is part of Columbus City Schools and located on the Southwest Side. The class debuted in the 2015-16 school year.
Cua, who grew up in Northland and graduated from St. Francis DeSales High School, expects next year to double the number of students enrolled in the class, which initially was a modest seven.
"They said it was really tough, but they enjoyed the subject matter, enjoyed what they learned," Cua said of the students.
Brock Mullins, dean of students at the high school, said several teachers at Briggs got together to nominate Cua for the award.
"We nominated her because of her ambition and how she educates kids," Mullins said. "And she takes the initiative to better the art curriculum in our school to fit what the students want."
Cua found out she won during a surprise announcement at a school assembly May 23, to which school Principal Tonya Milligan invited Cua's two brothers, father and fiancé.
In addition to taking the initiative to launch the AP class, the nomination praised Cua for reaching outside the school walls and changing the ways students view art. "Marcella Cua has done an excellent job in our art department. She has partnered with the Columbus Museum of (Art) to allow our students to gain different exposures to art. She ensures that each student understands what art means and allows them to showcase their work throughout the school and districtwide. Marcella is the reason why students enjoy taking a class that they may not (necessarily) want at the time but at the end enjoy every minute of it," the nomination states.
"Her stance with computer graphics has also (taken) the students by storm. The tricks and attention to detail that she delivers every day in class is embraced by her students. Her students not only learn in her class but they take away the appreciation of art to incorporate into further education."
Mullins said he was surprised to learn Cua was selected as one of the winners.
"There were so many nominations," he said, "but when you step back and look at it, she's very deserving of the award for what she does in the classroom and for our whole school community."