The faces behind the craft: perspectives from the PHS arts teachers

From paint to piano, from music to mosaics, the art teachers of PHS provide a variety of different classes to their students. The art teachers are heavily involved in school life with around 900 students enrolled in upper-level art and music programs. Providing instruction to students in all forms of media, they find their jobs unique in the potential for expression they hold.

This concept of expression refers to how art in any form can allow a student to look at surroundings in a new perspective. “[The arts] let you see students experience things in a different way,” said Matthew Pembleton, who teaches Mixed Media, Studio Art 3D I and II, and Studio Art 2D I and II. “It’s not so much to take a break from the hardcore academic subjects but [to engage] in a hands-on project-based learning, [which] makes you think in different  ways and stretches your horizons. It helps you creatively and with problem solving.”

Janelle Wilkinson, who teaches French I, II, and Dance, also considers art as a great outlet to creatively and emotionally exercise one’s mind. “In Dance we don’t sit—there’s no sitting. There’s no paper, there’s no pencil … Princeton High School students are very driven, very much achievers—many of them overachievers—and this class allows them to shed all of their layers of stress,” she said. “They’re still learning, there’s still the kinesthetic process, but … it’s a different part of the brain that’s working.”

Many of the art teachers associate their classes’ uniqueness with the creativity and individual expression that art brings. “[Art] is a great way to explore, discover, and gain knowledge of the world and how you express yourself,” said Judy Buckley, who teaches Mixed Media and Studio 2D I and II. “It’s really all about seeing things in a simple way, and once I see them, see the world in this new way … it is so exciting.”

Though the graduation requirement holds students to complete at least five visual or performing arts credits, many students choose to participate in the arts for all four years of high school. Sarah Pelletier, Co-Choir Director, finds this dedication and love for the performing and visual art classes what makes the classes so enjoyable. “One thing that [Co-Choir Director Vincent Metallo and I] always talk about that we love is that most of our students we have for four years. So you might … take one chemistry class and never take it again.” Pelletier said. “But … we have our students for four years, so we really get to know them so well and develop a relationship with them.”

Four years give many art teachers the opportunity to fully develop the abilities of a student. “In those four years you’re working with that student to make their skills that much better year after year,” Metallo said. “It’s … a nice process. It’s not just like you have them one time and then move on.”

Beyond the process, the teachers find the final product or show displaying the grueling rehearsals or the long hours of painting as a highlight of their job. “In music-making, there’s the process, which is rehearsals, and also the product, which is performing, and when you marry the two, that’s—for me—very fulfilling,” said Robert Loughran, the Orchestra Director.

Metallo finds the moment of the final product a very exhilarating one. “We have a sense of what a singer’s voice will really be like,” he said. “When he or she gets to that point, the excitement in their face is such an exciting moment because they’ve finally found their voice, their instrument.”

Due to both the process and the final outcome, the art teachers of PHS find their jobs inspirational. “The things that [the arts students] do, the paths that [these] kids take… I’m just so inspired and in awe,” Wilkinson said. “I’m constantly shocked, positively, with the accomplishments of teenagers today. I love my job.”

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name and email. Your email address will not be published.

Any comments containing the following material will be removed:
  • Hostility or insulting language directed towards other users, authors, Tower staff, or a specific group of people
  • Any type of harassment
  • Profanity, crude language, or slurs
  • Personal information about yourself or anyone else
  • Discussion unrelated to the article