Byline: AMELIA A. HART, Nassau Neighbors staff writer
Marilyn Eflein's career teaching art at Fernandina Beach High School began suddenly and expensively.
Eflein, a young teacher who had substituted a few times recalls getting a call out of the blue in November 1972 from the school's principal, asking if she was certified to teach art and if she could replace the school's art teacher, "who had departed under quick circumstances."
Eflein was certified and she got the job. She also quickly found herself out $50 of her own money when by error she was told she had $50 in school funding for art supplies, when in fact the $50 had already been spent.
Like any creative person, Eflein improvised to find more materials to supplement her meager stock of art supplies.
"I knew every trash can in town," she said.
Now, more than 30 years after that sudden start, Eflein is still teaching kids to tap into their own creativity and advocating the importance of art education in Nassau County and elsewhere.
That dedication recently earned her one of the highest awards from a state association dedicated to the field. In October, Eflein received a Career Service Award from the Florida Art Education Association. The award is given to individuals who have a demonstrated career of commitment to art education.
That description fits Eflein, according to her colleague, Rhonda Bristol, who nominated Eflein for the award.
For many years Eflein was the "lone voice in the wilderness" speaking out on the importance of art education in Nassau County, Bristol said.
"She single-handedly brought this county to realize the importance of the arts. She's still doing it," Bristol said. "She just needed to be recognized."
This is not the first time Eflein has been recognized for her teaching skills.
According to Fernandina Beach High Principal Jane Arnold, Eflein is consistently ranked in the top 5 percent of the school's teaching staff. She also has been named Teacher of the Year by the high school and by Nassau County, and District Teacher of the Year by the state of Florida.
"She has enriched the lives of thousands of students who have walked through the door of her classroom, and has shared her love and appreciation of the arts with a community that is grateful for all she has done," Arnold wrote in a letter to the Florida Art Education Association supporting Eflein's nomination for the Career Service Award. "She has truly dedicated her career and her life to art education."
Art has been an important part of Eflein's life since she was a little girl growing up in Fernandina Beach.
"I was an only child, very much on my own and TV was not that big a thing," she said. "I'd just draw and draw and draw."
Eflein is still an artist -- she specializes in watercolors -- and she is an exhibiting and charter member of the Island Art Association. …