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A Happy Balance

A Happy Balance

by Lindsey McMillan / photos by Natalie Haywood

PGISD Art Teacher Nicole Brisco stays connected in the world of art education while juggling family life with her professional one

Looking around Nicole Brisco’s art classroom at Pleasant Grove High School is intriguing.  Some students are quietly at work on paintings, another is crafting a ceramics project, and the room is bright and airy as light shines in from the large windows.  Nicole is in her twentieth year at Pleasant Grove, which was her first teaching job after graduating with a degree in Art Education from Henderson State University.  The recipient of many state and national awards, Nicole lives and breathes art and shares this passion with her students.  In 2017, she received the Texas Humanities Educator of the Year, and this year she will be named the National Secondary Art Educator of the Year.  She is no stranger to accolades as 10 years ago she received the Texas State Educator of the Year.  Many of her students also share in this endeavor, winning many awards and earning high scores on the very challenging Advanced Placement art exam.  Beyond instructing her students in the classroom, Nicole serves as a mentor for many and remains in touch with them long after they graduate.  Nicole says, “Being a teacher is so much more than teaching.  It’s about caring for students more than anything.”

Like many, Nicole juggles family life along with her professional one, a task that she admits is very hard to do. She met her husband, Chris, in college, and together they are raising 7-year-old twins, Ava Gray and Christian, who are first graders at Pleasant Grove Elementary School.  Married 16 years before their birth, Nicole had always considered her students to be her “kids.”  Smiling, she shares that they are still her “kids” remarking that she has taught so many of her students’ siblings and known some families for 12 years or more.  Working with other parents while helping students enables her to experience many different personalities and learning styles. “I have to stretch and mold around the needs of people, spaces and opportunities,” she says.  Knowing that family comes first, she has learned to be adaptable and find a happy balance focusing on quality not quantity. Her kids enjoy helping her with artwork and other projects.  Looking around her classroom full of both finished and unfinished works of art she laughs, saying that her life is an “organized chaos.”

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Having set a foundation for her professional life long ago, Nicole continues wearing many hats working as a contributing editor and writer for various art education textbooks and magazines for over 10 years.  She is at work preparing a 60-piece exhibition to be showcased at Texas A&M University-Texarkana next July.  She has had many one-woman art shows in various locales around the ArkLaTex.  She also works closely within the community with TRAHC, Four States Juried Art Exhibition, and participates with celebrity artists for the Party with Picassos hosted by Women for the Arts each spring.  She stays well connected in the world of art education by way of giving presentations and publishing through organizations such as the Texas Art Education Association (TAEA) and Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE).  Most proud of her students’ accomplishments and many art awards Nicole says, “Pleasant Grove artwork is well-known on a state and national level. I see beyond the objective.  I want to help my students learn life skills and become world thinkers. And if they create something beautiful along the way, then that’s the icing on the cake.”

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