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May 05, 2023

Three Northeast Ohio art teachers receive second annual Cleveland Institute of Art Excellence in Teaching Awards

2023 Cleveland Institute of Art Excellence in Teaching Award winners, from left, Michelle Kane from Mentor High School, Nancy Rich-Drehs from Heights High School in Cleveland Heights, and Amber West from Olmsted Falls High School.

CIA recognizes art educators for their meaningful contributions to teaching and inspiring the next generation of artists and designers


May 5, 2023

CLEVELAND—The Cleveland Institute of Art announces the 2023 recipients of its CIA Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes high school art educators for their contributions to teaching and inspiring the next generation to pursue their passion for art and design.

This year's honorees are three exemplary art teachers from Northeast Ohio: Michelle Kane from Mentor High School in Mentor; Nancy Rich-Drehs from Heights High School in Cleveland Heights; and Amber West from Olmsted Falls High School in Olmsted Falls.

"Students who study with these instructors are prepared for success—a quality we see time and again when they enroll at CIA," says James Malley, director of Admissions at CIA. "Each has keenly honed skills, and the art they create stands out from work by their peers. Students from these programs are equipped to leave their creative mark on the world thanks in large part to the inspiration and guidance given to them by these teachers."

Kane is a career educator who teaches fine art and Advanced Placement at her alma mater, Mentor High School, where she is the art department coordinator and National Art Honor Society Advisor. Kane earned her degree in Art Education from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art, and later her master's in Education from Marygrove College in Detroit. She has been teaching for 29 years. Through the Ohio Department of Education, Kane earned her Master Teacher designation and continues to strive to be a thoughtful steward, a responsible leader in the school community and a vocal advocate for the arts.

Rich-Drehs received a BFA in Metals and a minor in Industrial Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and later earned her master's degree in Art Education from Case Western Reserve University. Her career began in 1992 in the Cleveland Municipal School District, where she implemented the K–8 art curriculum. In 2001, she developed the art curriculum for Intergenerational School in Cleveland, and in 2004, she began teaching for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District. She is actively involved in the Ohio Art Education Association and National Art Education Association.

West knew that she wanted to be an art teacher by the third grade, when she taught kids in the neighborhood art in a "classroom" she set up in her house. She earned her BFA from Ohio University, double majoring in Art Education and Graphic Design with a minor in Art History. Once she started teaching, she earned her master's degree in Art Education from Kent State University. She has taught in Olmsted Falls City Schools for 28 years, and despite earning many awards, she is most proud of the success and achievements of her students.

"On behalf of CIA, I'm thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of Michelle, Nancy and Amber, and to recognize the valuable impact they have by instilling the creative process in our region's youth," says CIA President + CEO Kathryn J. Heidemann. "These teachers nurture the creative process—from curiosity to discovery, from experimentation to iteration, and from 'failing forward' to successful execution—which fosters critical thinking and resiliency. Their work, in turn, helps cultivate a fertile ecosystem of innovation in Northeast Ohio."

The honorees will be recognized May 12 during CIA's 2023 BFA Celebration. Each will receive $500, their name on a plaque on CIA’s campus, and a one-of-a-kind certificate designed by CIA alum Julia Milbrandt.

Kane, Rich-Drehs and West join the inaugural 2022 class of CIA Excellence in Teaching Award winners: Sarah Curry at Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst; Dayna Hansen at Lakewood High School in Lakewood; and Dan Whitely at Orange High School in Pepper Pike.

Educators who are considered for the Cleveland Institute of Art Excellence in Teaching Award are identified by CIA based on connections made throughout the recruitment cycle. Honorees are selected based on the outcomes of their students’ portfolios as well as their commitment to providing access and opportunities for students to show their work and consider the best art colleges in the country. Three recipients will be announced each year.

Michael C. Butz
Cleveland Institute of Art
Director of College Communications + External Relations
216.421.7404 /

Cleveland Institute of Art is a private, nonprofit college of art and design that has been the training ground for countless students who have gone on to make important contributions to the fields of creativity and innovation since it opened in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women. Its students have designed internationally recognized products, their artwork has been exhibited in major museums and private collections around the world, and their entertainment media has been enjoyed by audiences and game players for generations. It enrolls about 600 students nationally and internationally and has a faculty of about 100 full-time and adjunct members, all of whom are practicing artists, designers and scholars.

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