Susan is facing forward and smiling as she leans out of the door labeled The Susan J. Gabbard Art Education Classroom

Susan J. Ellis Gabbard

Advancement Board Member

1970, B.A., Art Education, 1994, M.A., Art Education, summa cum laude
Art Education Consultant, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Instagram: SJGabbard
LinkedIn: Susan J. Ellis Gabbard
Alumna Profile: Susan J. Ellis Gabbard


Susan J. Ellis Gabbard’s career in art education spans more than 45 years. Gabbard brings a wealth of experience as a visual art educator and leader, having taught art for 30 years in K-12 public and private schools in Oklahoma and Texas. She was the director of visual and performing arts for Oklahoma City Public Schools, overseeing all fine arts programming for dance, music, theater arts and visual art from 2004 to 2014. At the national level, Gabbard served as president of the National Art Education Association from 2005 to 2007. She also served as president of the board of Harding Fine Arts Academy Charter High School and vice president of the Six-Twelve Art and Sustainability Board in the Paseo District in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Susan is standing in front her art education class in the Art Building.Gabbard is standing in the art building classroom named for her. She is a contributing writer of the governance chapter for the NAEA 75th-anniversary publication released in 2022. She was a visual arts writing team member for the 2014 National Core Standards. Gabbard led three delegations of art educators for NAEA through the People to People Ambassador program: Beijing, China, in 2005; St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2006; and Vietnam and Cambodia, in 2008, to learn about education and visual arts education in each country. She worked with Jessica De La Garza in Mexico City from 2006 to 2010 to create an affiliation between Mexico art educators and NAEA. In 1997, Gabbard was a Fulbright Teacher Fund Scholar in Japan for a three-week intensive study of the Japanese education system at the invitation of the Japanese government. She was a consultant for leadership training and board development with state art education associations, including Tennessee and New Mexico.

Leadership comes naturally to Gabbard. In her first teaching position in the San Antonio Independent School District in 1971, she was invited to serve on the district curriculum writing team. She continued her leadership journey with the Oklahoma Art Education Association in 1985 as the Youth Art Month Committee chair, earning the National Award of Excellence in 1986 for Oklahoma and the Claire Flanagan Memorial Youth Art Month Award for the most outstanding state observance in the country in 1987. Gabbard was president of OAEA and the OAEA Elementary Teacher of the Year in 1995. In 1996, she was the Outstanding Visual Art Teacher Award winner in the American Teacher Awards program sponsored by the Walt Disney Company. She received the Oklahoma Governor's Art Award for Arts Education in 2000 and the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching in 2003 from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The National Art Education Association honored Gabbard for her state leadership with the prestigious Marion Quin Dix Award in 2003 and inducted her as a Distinguished Fellow in 2007. In 2017, Gabbard was the National Art Educator of the Year.

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