NORTH PORT— The Visual and Performing Arts Department at North Port High School earned the Florida Arts Model School Award in four areas this week.

NPHS is one of three schools in the state to earn the honor from the Department of Education. The school received the honor for dance, music, visual art and theater.

The award is in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education and seeks to identify model arts education programs in schools throughout Florida.

The department at NPHS has worked on applying for the distinction for a full year.


Melissa Forsten, a first-grade teacher at North Port’s Atwater Elementary School, was named Appleton Outstanding Teacher of the Year this week.

The award recognizes teachers who incorporate art strategies into the classroom.

According to a press release, Forsten uses the performing arts to inspire her students to learn and helps to educate other teachers on best practices and teaching techniques.

Forsten received a prize for an arts integration project and classroom teaching materials from the Van Wezel Foundation. She will also be eligible to attend a professional development workshop in Washington, D.C., taught by artists at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

“Melissa Forsten emulates the spirit that is the heart of the Foundation’s mission,” said Cheryl Mendelson, Van Wezel Foundation CEO. “Through her inventive lessons and creative teaching methods, she is making a significant impact on her students to develop a love of learning through the performing arts.”

Forsten said her students are often having so much fun during their activities, that they forget they are learning how to read or are singing or dancing in front of their peers.

“My students learn so much from the visiting artists who read stories aloud and bring them to life through playacting and storytelling,” Forsten said.

Tatiana Ignotis, an ESOL instructor from Venice Middle School was also recognized for innovative application of the arts in the classroom.

Student-made videos can earn money

Students have until April 27 to enter First Lady Casey DeSantis’ “The Facts. Your Future” video competition. The videos are intended to create peer-to-peer awareness related to substance abuse and its impact on kids futures.

The competition will distribute $34,000 in cash prizes for both the winning students and their schools. It’s open to all middle and high school students in the state. The video can be submit by one student or a group of students from the same school.

According to the video contest guidelines, the video must be no longer than 90 seconds and must address the theme “These are the facts. This is your future.” using concepts of empowerment, peer support, and substance abuse awareness. The first-place students and schools will get $5,000, second-place students and schools will get $2,500, and third-place will get $1,000 respectively.

For more information about the contest and to enter, visit


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