Return to Headlines

HBE receives arts education recognition with new award

Published on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021

melissa willis

BCSD photo / Monica Kreber

Engaging Creative Minds representatives had a special surprise for H.E. Bonner Elementary Principal Melissa Willis on Friday.

The school is the recipient of the first annual Scott Shanklin-Peterson Surprise ELE (engaged learning experience) Award.

ECM is an arts integration educational nonprofit based in Charleston. The team hires and trains local artists, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) professionals and cultural organizations, called ECM instructors, to work with grade-level teams of teachers to support learning through the arts.

On Friday morning, a few district and school staff members quietly waited for Willis to enter an otherwise empty classroom. After greeting her with an applause, Willis was directed to join a Zoom call with representatives from ECM (view video of Willis getting surprised).

Robin Berlinsky, executive director of ECM, recapped that back in October, Scott Shanklin-Peterson rolled off ECM’s board after more than eight years of service with ECM. Shanklin-Peterson is an advocate for arts education, and a “champion for children” across the state, so the ECM board decided to honor her by creating an award in her name.

The award would go to such a school that: did not receive all of their requested ELEs for the year, or is on ECM’s waiting list.

“After careful consideration with superintendents in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester 2, it was decided that the Scott Shanklin-Peterson Surprise ELE Award for this year goes to H.E. Bonner Elementary Little Foxes,” Berlinksy said.

As part of the award, ECM will work with one grade level team at the school to provide more arts experiences to students. The school will select which grade level to implement these ELEs; implementation will start either this spring or next fall. 

Shanklin-Peterson herself was part of the Zoom call.

“The ECM board and staff is amazing, and what they did was rather than just give me a plaque or something, they found this win-win award situation, and I’m so happy that Bonner is the recipient,” she said.

Willis said she was very overwhelmed by the news.

“It’s certainly nice to have our team recognized for the hard work that we’ve put in together for the last three years in providing such amazing art experiences for our students,” she said, adding, “I was completely stunned. I had no idea that we would be recognized with such a great distinction and award.”

Superintendent Eddie Ingram was also part of the call.

“ECM does a great job, we really appreciate their support,” he said.

The school’s lottery is open right now until March 15.



Monica Kreber