At Berkeley High School (BHS), participating in two years of an art course is a graduation requirement for all students. The art department offers numerous opportunities and class options for students to find an art form they feel passionate about. The department includes classes in four main categories, dance, music, drama, and visual art. Each of these genres is reflected in a variety of classes and professors. 16 unique and passionate artists make up the BHS art department. Each one provides their students with educational resources and life skills through their class.
Even with a packed academic schedule, art teachers believe that art is critical for all students’ education and wellbeing. Art department teachers hope that taking an art class and learning about art can have a significant impact on how students look at world issues and personal dilemmas.
Andrea Sanguine, a ceramics teacher at BHS, spoke about the skills gained by students from her class. “Art builds critical thinking skills and awareness of strengths as a thinker,” she said. Getting to take a hands-on and interactive class at school can help students to contemplate problems and situations in their lives using multiple perspectives and ideas.
Gabriel Berent, a digital photography teacher, and the art department lead teacher, stated, “Photography is a great skill to have [in] life, especially as a way to analyze the world we are experiencing both good and bad.”
BHS art teachers hope that the lessons and tools taught in their art classes will serve students throughout their whole lives, as they deal with the challenges they face in and outside of school.
As well as advancing students’ analytical skills and broadening their perspectives, art teachers feel that the hands-on opportunities offered in their classes help students to cultivate joy and release stress during the long school day. “I know that they sit down for most of their classes, so I try to get them up and moving, feeling the power of the drums and the rhythms to motivate them to move,” said Dawn Williams, a BHS Afro-Haitian dance teacher.
Art classes provide students with an environment that allows them to be brave and adventurous while cultivating a passion for art. Regarding the mental health benefits of her ceramics class, Sanguine said, “On a health note, it is a time of the day to exercise their right brain and release the stresses of the day.” Art teachers hope that their classes can offer students a place to relax and release the tension built up from a rigorous academic day.
Each member of the BHS art department practices art as a profession outside of teaching, and the experiences and knowledge they possess from their careers benefit their students’ education and well-being in every way. When asked about his colleagues in the department, Berent stated, “I am always amazed at how much knowledge of their craft and teaching they bring into the classroom.”
The art department believes that the skills and tools brought to students through the various art classes offered enhance students’ education, happiness, and overall life skills. It is evident that incorporating art into students’ academic schedules advances their abilities in a multitude of ways, and that much of this is due to the passion for creativity brought by each art teacher.