Miriam Stahl: Giving back to students through art and activism


Miriam Klein Stahl, known to all her students simply as “Stahl,” has been an art teacher at Berkeley High School since 1995. As a teacher, she gives her students creative freedom to express themselves. “Stahl doesn’t really try to push us to do what she wants, she is trying to push us to … explore our own ideas,” said Gisela Cediel, a student at BHS that has taken Stahl’s classes for the past three years.

Aside from teaching art, Stahl became a co-founder of Arts and Humanities Academy at BHS in 2006 by submitting a Berkeley School Board proposal she wrote with three other teachers outlining the need to establish the small school. She and her fellow teachers noticed that while their students excelled in the arts, many struggled in other subjects. Their solution was creating a small school with 60 students per grade, dedicated to exploring the world through the lens of art. The tight-knit environment would allow teachers to collaborate on lesson plans, hopefully translating students’ successes in the arts to successes in all their classes. “We wanted students that were artistic in their scholarship and scholarly in their artmaking,” said Stahl.

Outside teaching, Stahl has illustrated Rad American Women A-Z, Rad Women Worldwide, Rad Girls Can, and Rad American History A-Z written by her friend Kate Schatz. She has also worked on several public art projects across the Bay Area, including the design of several cut metal pieces capturing the beauty of nature displayed throughout Ashland. Stahl’s work was also installed as part of the “Hella Feminist” exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California from July 29, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023. It featured 200 paper-cut images of feminists from the East Bay accompanied by recordings about them. 

Much of Stahl’s work highlights what she calls “radical social movements.” 

“I feel like the dominant stories … leave out a lot of people and movements that are important to me,” said Stahl. Her art covers community movements like BHS students advocating for more gender neutral bathrooms on campus and also larger movements like providing reparations to people forcibly enslaved and brought to the United States.

Stahl was a sponsored skateboarder as a teenager and has continued this passion as a hobby throughout her life. When her daughter expressed an interest in skateboarding, she took to a skate park. As she taught her daughter the skills she knew, Stahl heard many homophobic comments, especially after pro skater Brian Anderson came out. 

“It caused a lot of waves in the skateboarding community, and so me and another skater I knew … named Tara Jepson decided to start our own skate company that highlights our queer ancestors on the decks,” said Stahl. 

Stahl and Jepson decided to name the company Pave the Way. 

Stahl’s positive impact can be seen in the powerful murals dotting the BHS campus,  the classes taught there, and the students who learn from her.