JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- High school art teacher Linda Melkersman of Sikeston, Mo., was honored by the state on Wednesday for her contributions to furthering the arts in Southeast Missouri.
Melkersman, who teaches at New Madrid County Central High School, received the Missouri Arts Award for art education from Gov. Bob Holden and first lady Lori Hauser Holden during a ceremony in the state Capitol attended by hundreds of arts supporters.
Lori Hauser Holden said Melkersman "has enriched the lives of her students and Sikeston-area residents through her love for the arts."
The first lady praised Melkersman for establishing a chapter of the National Arts Honor Society at her school, which Holden said may be the only such chapter in Missouri, and for initiating a number of arts programs in her community.
Melkersman said that grants from the Missouri Arts Council, which administers the awards, has been key to helping her expose her students to fine arts by funding field trips to museums in St. Louis.
"These children I teach are probably my most important reason to live," Melkersman said. "If these children were not here for me everyday, I don't know what I'd do."
Melkersman is also an adjunct art faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University.
The Missouri Arts awards were established in 1982 to honor those whose contributions to the arts in Missouri have had profound positive effects in the state.
Four others also received the hand-carved wooden awards in various categories.
"The efforts that these honorees make have a positive impact on the quality of life in our communities and upon our state's economy," Gov. Holden said. "I truly appreciate how these artists have chosen to share their individual and unique talents with us and I appreciate their dedication to preserving Missouri's rich cultural heritage."