Frank Korb, in his fourth year teaching art at Fort Atkinson High School, was honored Thursday evening as the Wisconsin Art Education Association’s Secondary Art Teacher of the Year.
The award honors a teacher who not only has done an outstanding job educating their own students, but who also has enriched art education on the regional and state level and beyond.
Korb accepted the award at the Wisconsin Art Education Association’s (WAEA) Fall 2021 Conference in Wisconsin Rapids.
In addition to teaching at the local level, Korb served as a member of the WAEA board for six years, for four years serving as vice president of the association’s Southeastern Wisconsin region.
As such, he oversaw the Youth Art Month activities for the region and organized the state exhibit. Korb also has been involved with the WAEA conference for many years, and the event’s 6 a.m. fun run actually is named after him.
“It’s a great event,” Korb said of the conference as a whole. “This is where connections are made and new ideas developed, garnished, modified and stolen.”
He said he loves what he does, calling teaching art “the best job in the world — sorry to all those other careers out there.”
“One of my biggest goals is to reach as many people as possible, not just students but everyone,” the teacher said.
He does that not only through interactive activities with the WAEA, but also through his art education website, his personal art website and his YouTube channel.
“Art gives everybody a different outlet, and a different set of problem-solving tools,” Korb said. “It gives you a different way to demonstrate your abilities and express yourself.”
He said he believes that art is universal, and that there is no such thing as inborn talent. To get better at art, a person need only put in the study and practice.
“Anybody can draw,” Korb said. “Anybody can paint or sculpt. It just takes hard work. And the harder you work, the better you get. You have to commit the time and effort.”
He said that working in art education has been incredibly rewarding. It’s magical to witness the moment that a technique begins to “click” in a young artist’s mind, he said.
In his opinion, the best student art is what’s meaningful to the young artists. As such, he encourages students to personalize their assignments. Even if it still is an art piece, they are encouraged to bring in items that are meaningful to them to give the art more resonance.
The honoree currently teaches five different classes at the high school: Art Foundations, Introduction to Painting, Advanced Painting, Introduction to Digital Art and Photography, and Advanced Digital Art and Photography.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve taught pretty much everything,” Korb said.
BackgroundKorb lives in Burlington. His one-hour commute in the morning and evening gives him a lot of time to think.
He grew up in Waterford, and was influenced strongly by his high school art teacher, Sonja Kiper, a stained glass artist who lives in Whitewater.
“She did such a beautiful job as an art educator,” Korb said. “She really inspired me.”
Korb went on to study art education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Prior to coming to the Fort Atkinson schools, Korb spent 19 years at Waterford Union High School, and prior to that he taught for a few years at the Franklin and Waterford districts combined.
“In my first year teaching, I served four buildings in two different districts,” Korb said.
Even though he had an established career in Waterford, he felt it was time for a change when he came to Fort Atkinson four years ago.
He said he has been incredibly impressed with the support this community shows for the arts, whether the visual arts, music or theater. He said he also is proud of the way the community provides public spaces for art — from the huge fish sculpture near the Cafe Carpe to the poetry walls downtown, to the “Fireflies” sculpture and others that dot the city parks and public places, to the many instances of student art on display at Fort Atkinson High School.
Korb is one of two teachers in the art department at the local high school, along with his colleague, Angie Szabo, who also has won high honors as a Wisconsin Art Education Association educator of the month and as a distinguished Kohl teaching fellow.
“I am lucky to be part of a great department here,” Korb said, crediting Szabo as well as the district’s two middle school art teachers and the elementary art teachers, each of whom serves a separate school.
Both Korb and Szabo are practicing artists as well as being educators. They regularly create original art and exhibit it, which keeps them really current as to what’s going on in the field.
Korb also really enjoys exploring current issues through art, as with a series he recently has done centering on climate change.
He also recently was featured on the “Authentic Obsessions” podcast with Margret Petrie.
“I was a longtime listener,” Korb said. “I reached out recently because I had some work up at the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network — two large pieces about the COVID experience.”
Petrie invited Korb to do an interview on the podcast. Recorded some time ago, the episode dropped last week.
It is available on Apple Podcasts and through other venues.
PandemicThe COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended education at all levels, has forced Korb to reach out in new and different ways.
“Our students had their big show about two weeks before the entire world shut down,” Korb recalled.
At the time, he said, the coronavirus was on the horizon as a vague problem that was occurring elsewhere, but he already was wondering if it would make its way to little Fort Atkinson.
Little did he know how much local students and the community as a whole would be affected.
“Then, two weeks later, we were sent home for a year and a half,” Korb said.
Suddenly, art instruction and projects that had been done in person were being done in isolation, and art shows and exhibits were done virtually, if at all.
It was a struggle to stay connected during that time, but Korb thinks that the Fort Atkinson art department was up to the challenge. Furthermore, art exploration gave students an important creative outlet which helped them cope with all of the changes they were experiencing as a result of the pandemic.
Art is important at all times, and never more so during a crisis, he said.
“Frank is truly a dedicated and motivated leader, taking on additional roles and responsibilities beyond that of an everyday art instructor,” said Dan Halvorsen, Fort Atkinson High School principal.
The principal commended Korb for his involvement in WAEA, which has expanded opportunities for students across the region and state.
Halvorsen said that Korb’s dedication is apparent in the local area and beyond, and that Korb has worked to increase awareness in public forums and the political arena about the continued need to expand the arts in people’s everyday lives.
“His classroom work and drive to bring the 21st Century into the classroom is beyond admirable, and his students recognize and appreciate the work he has done, during the pandemic and beyond,” the principal said.
Halvorsen also commended Korb, a Google Certified Educator, for his efforts to keep up with technology, and to make the latest educational and artistic tools available to his students and to help other educators in the district attain similar certification.
ConnectionsTo learn more about Korb and to share some of his art education ideas, people are welcome to visit his art education website at ArtwithKorb.com.
“That website has helped me engage with teachers from all over, not just in the United States, but in New Zealand, Ireland and around the world,” Korb said.
Korb also has his own YouTube channel where he posts educational videos, and his own personal art website at FrankKorb.com as well as an Instagram account @fjkorb.