Cumberland’s Top Teacher: Emily Overstreet encourages students

Emily Overstreet said she focuses on more than just art. The Teacher of the Year for Cumberland County Public Schools, she encourages her students to think outside the box in all of their classes.

First, Overstreet’s peers at the elementary school where she works nominated their choice for the title. As a result, Overstreet won the vote for Cumberland County Elementary School. Then, she moved on with the middle and high school winners, eventually claiming the district title. This is her second time getting the achievement in her 15 years at Cumberland for both as she earned the title for the school in 2012 and the district in 2020. 

“It’s definitely amazing,” said Overstreet. “There are so many amazing educators at Cumberland and I’m so humbled to be chosen.”

Emily Overstreet looks back

Growing up, Overstreet lived on a farm in Maryland where she and her sketchbook would capture the beautiful moments in nature. She never really thought about becoming a teacher when she was young but she knew she wanted to do something with the arts. 

After graduating from Longwood University, she joined Cumberland County Public Schools and has stayed for the past 15 years. She works with preschool through fourth grade to create art and inspire them to think outside the box. She hopes to give the same inspiration and opportunities to her students as her teachers gave her.

“I think art is important because it’s a way for students to find and share new opportunities,” said Overstreet. “It’s a way to encourage students to reach their full potential not just with art but with math and reading and to look at things differently.”

As a teacher, Overstreet enjoys the opportunity to educate and inspire students and develop young artists. With the world and the workforce shifting to have more creative professions available, she encourages her students to think outside the box in all areas. 

Seeing confidence grow

Another thing she loves about art is seeing the confidence it builds in her students. In October, Overstreet and her students created a visual art installation for the Longwood Center for Visual Arts called “Let Your Imagination Take Flight.” She and her students created a scene in the lobby with paper mache children reading, hot air balloons, flowers and paintings. She said that once her students saw this project completed they were so excited to see their hard work pay off and what they could accomplish. 

“The arts can inspire students and make them excited to learn,” said Overstreet. “I want to give students a welcoming space to explore and enjoy the process of creating art or anything they put their mind to.”

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