The TCS district received exciting news over the Thanksgiving break. West Middle School art students learned they would have their created ornaments featured at the 2021 National Christmas Tree Display in Washington, D.C.
In total, students from 58 schools across the nation and abroad designed the one-of-a-kind ornaments for the display on the Ellipse in President’s Park. These unique ornaments will be featured on 58 smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree. The trees represent each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates ornament display.
Earlier this year, West Middle School Art Teacher Kathy McMillan learned that the Tennessee Department of Education nominated her and her students to design Tennessee’s ornaments. McMillan had previously been named the 2021 TN Art Education Association Regional Art Educator of the Year. After receiving that state honor, McMillan later spoke with Todd Shipley, the TDOE Director of Arts Education, and accepted the nomination to design this year’s ornaments. She and her students completed the ornaments in the middle of September.
“It still doesn’t seem real,” McMillan said. “Todd Shipley said that he had nominated me, and I was absolutely surprised. I had to be quiet about it because they wanted to make an announcement later in the year. I had my art club students and some of my other advanced art students help craft the ornaments. We had to turn them around pretty quickly and had to submit a minimum of 18 ornaments. I think we actually ended up with a total of 25 or 26.”
The America Celebrates ornament program is an annual collaboration of the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Park Foundation. The U.S. Department of Education works with states and territories to identify elementary, middle school and high schools to participate in the America Celebrates program. The National Park Foundation funds the project.
“We get to celebrate an amazing experience for our art teacher, Kathy McMillan, and all of the students who participated,” said West Middle School Principal Cindy Herrera. “We are very proud of Kathy and the work she continues to do in giving our WMS students great experiences and opportunities. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we celebrate Kathy McMillan and the art students of WMS.”
From state flowers to notable landmarks, students worked to create ornaments that celebrate their home state. The America Celebrates display is one of the highlights of the National Christmas Tree experience. In partnership with the National Park Foundation, CBS will broadcast the 2021 ceremony this Sunday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. Central Time.
“This is an incredible opportunity for these West Middle School students,” said TCS Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens. “What a wonderful way to showcase and highlight the arts here in Tullahoma, by having some of our students’ creations on display at the national level. Many visitors from across the country and beyond will take in their ornaments hanging on the Tennessee tree. I am extremely proud of these students and Kathy McMillan.”
Those wishing to view the National Christmas Tree and the 58 state, district and territory trees and their ornaments will be able to do so starting this Saturday, Dec. 4, until Jan. 1.
Photo: West Middle School Eighth-Grader Ava Duncan points to her ornament design on the National Christmas Tree Lighting Website. Duncan is one of several West Middle School art students who will have their ornaments on display during the National Christmas Tree Display in December.
-Photo Provided by Kathy McMillan