"Rebecca has an acute sense of the power of arts education. She galvanizes the community, turning passive supporters into activists working on our behalf."

—Marna Stalcup, Director of Arts Education, Regional Arts & Culture Council

"We're not putting coats on the homeless, exactly," says Rebecca Burrell, outreach specialist at the Right Brain Initiative in Portland. And she's not. From a downtown corner office flooded with natural light, Burrell fights battles involving art in our schools.

Right Brain's mission is to give every K-8 student in the region access to art regardless of neighborhood, language or income. Burrell and her team serve more than 60 schools in seven metro-area districts with limited arts education resources by training teachers to weave arts into core curricula. Right Brain suggests to teachers there are other—likely better—ways to harvest high math and science scores than having students complete worksheets.

"Teachers have the hardest job in the world," Burrell says. "And they are underappreciated, amazing people. We help [teachers] meet the objectives that stress them out."

Burrell, a 34-year-old Portland native, carries herself with a grace indicative of years of modern dance training. She's poised, gentle and frequently flashes a winning smile. Her conviction that Right Brain's work is imperative to classroom success is palpable.

According to Marna Stalcup, director of arts education for the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Burrell's personal experiences with art allow her to excel in her role as the public face of Right Brain.

While most of the staff has "back of house" jobs like curriculum development, workshop scheduling or grant research, Burrell works the front of the house, spreading the word about Right Brain.

"Rebecca is truly the connector to the broader community," says Stalcup. "She ensures that what's out there publicly matches with the ethos of our organization."

Burrell organizes more than 250 volunteers, who in 2014 completed 10,000 hours of advocacy and fundraising. She meets policy makers to show the measurable success Right Brain programs have on students, teachers and test scores. She develops Right Brain's annual report by working with designers, interviewing principals and collecting data.

"Some kids need to hear the info through different mediums," Burrell says of how integrated arts help in all other subjects. "Or maybe they don't need to hear it at all. They need to see, or feel, or move the information physically, in order to understand concepts."

So tools like Right Brain's Brain Food Deck were born. Under leadership from Burrell, educators and Portland's design community collaborated to create the deck. It's a colorful collection of activities that require creative thinking, which typically occurs in the right side of the human brain.

When she's not at work, Burrell stays busy filling her own life with creativity. In mid-September, she got married and threw a DIY wedding block party in her street to celebrate.

"It was quintessential Rebecca," says Stalcup, who attended. "A true community gathering."

While Burrell may not be putting coats on backs, she's putting creativity back into classrooms. Right Brain's work helps students believe they are good learners, and encourages them to stay in school in a city with an abysmal 70 percent high-school graduation rate.

"This could change everything," says Burrell. "Everything."

BOTTOM LINE FOR PORTLAND

Burrell's advocacy work has helped Right Brain serve 20,000 students from 63 Portland metro-area schools in seven districts and three counties.

"Rebecca has an acute sense of the power of arts education. She galvanizes the community, turning passive supporters into activists working on our behalf."—Marna Stalcup, Director of Arts Education, Regional Arts & Culture Council

"We're not putting coats on the homeless, exactly," says Rebecca Burrell, outreach specialist at the Right Brain Initiative in Portland. And she's not. From a downtown corner office flooded with natural light, Burrell fights battles involving art in our schools.

Right Brain's mission is to give every K-8 student in the region access to art regardless of neighborhood, language or income. Burrell and her team serve more than 60 schools in seven metro-area districts with limited arts education resources by training teachers to weave arts into core curricula. Right Brain suggests to teachers there are other—likely better—ways to harvest high math and science scores than having students complete worksheets.

"Teachers have the hardest job in the world," Burrell says. "And they are underappreciated, amazing people. We help [teachers] meet the objectives that stress them out."

Burrell, a 34-year-old Portland native, carries herself with a grace indicative of years of modern dance training. She's poised, gentle and frequently flashes a winning smile. Her conviction that Right Brain's work is imperative to classroom success is palpable.

According to Marna Stalcup, director of arts education for the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Burrell's personal experiences with art allow her to excel in her role as the public face of Right Brain.

While most of the staff has "back of house" jobs like curriculum development, workshop scheduling or grant research, Burrell works the front of the house, spreading the word about Right Brain.

"Rebecca is truly the connector to the broader community," says Stalcup. "She ensures that what's out there publicly matches with the ethos of our organization."

Burrell organizes more than 250 volunteers, who in 2014 completed 10,000 hours of advocacy and fundraising. She meets policy makers to show the measurable success Right Brain programs have on students, teachers and test scores. She develops Right Brain's annual report by working with designers, interviewing principals and collecting data.

"Some kids need to hear the info through different mediums," Burrell says of how integrated arts help in all other subjects. "Or maybe they don't need to hear it at all. They need to see, or feel, or move the information physically, in order to understand concepts."

So tools like Right Brain's Brain Food Deck were born. Under leadership from Burrell, educators and Portland's design community collaborated to create the deck. It's a colorful collection of activities that require creative thinking, which typically occurs in the right side of the human brain.

When she's not at work, Burrell stays busy filling her own life with creativity. In mid-September, she got married and threw a DIY wedding block party in her street to celebrate.

"It was quintessential Rebecca," says Stalcup, who attended. "A true community gathering."

While Burrell may not be putting coats on backs, she's putting creativity back into classrooms. Right Brain's work helps students believe they are good learners, and encourages them to stay in school in a city with an abysmal 70 percent high-school graduation rate.

"This could change everything," says Burrell. "Everything."

BOTTOM LINE FOR PORTLAND

Burrell's advocacy work has helped Right Brain serve 20,000 students from 63 Portland metro-area schools in seven districts and three counties.

Rebecca Burrell's prize is generously sponsored by Davis Wright Tremaine.

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