Creative Environments

92127 is home to some of the best schools around, with dedicated administrators, teachers, and parents all joining forces on a daily basis to provide a fulfilling educational environment from elementary to high school. That collaboration is easy to see in local fine arts programs. While they may not show up on standardized tests, the arts are an important opportunity for children to discover new ways of thinking. They learn to think outside the box and take pride in their creative accomplishments. Read along as art teachers and volunteers from schools all over 92127 share how fine arts programs are making a difference for local students.

Del Sur Elementary School

Q&A with Alyssa Navapanich, Art Teacher

What types of art classes are provided at Del Sur Elementary School?
Students are taught a variety of art projects using different genres. While I do teach art for art’s sake, I also collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate classroom curriculum into art lessons. I also use historic, contemporary, and local artists and artwork as springboards for lessons.

What have been some of the most popular projects?
A favorite from last year was an African style fabric collage based on the work of Angela Dallas, mouse paint with kindergarten is always a hit, sailboat silhouettes are beautiful, paper making and collage are really fun. Anything that includes a self-portrait is loved by the families. I like to do a lot of painting and messy projects because I know that most teachers do not have time to do those types of things with their students.



If you could grant the program one wish, what would it be?
A constant budget that safeguards art as a component of student education. I would love to see art as a regular, integral part of curriculum in all schools. Because elementary art is not financially supported by our state, I am paid through the Del Sur Foundation. All art supplies are also provided by the foundation. To keep the arts program and others running, the foundation does numerous fundraising events throughout the year.

Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
We are exceptionally proud of our art program. Arts integration and our STEAM focus is an important part of the overall programs at Del Sur. Our school makes it mission-critical to support the whole-child educational philosophy. I think it shows in the fact that our school received both the California Distinguished Schools honor and the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2014.



Q&A with Tom Downs, Art Teacher

What types of art classes are provided at Design39Campus?
We currently integrate art into our classes across campus with projects that connect to what students are learning. We also offer time for students to focus more on art through the use of our “deep dive” courses. While these are not formal art classes, the focus is on tools and techniques artists use. We look at different artists for techniques, point of view, and to show students that the world of art is about expression and not just the ability to draw.

We are experimenting with nontraditional art classes as well. One of the more unusual classes is called tinkering. Students tear apart old electronics and donated items to build new things. These students have no idea that they are in an art class. They simply try to create art using found objects.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
When a student says, “I want to try to…” that is the best moment. I live for students to pick up the tools and confidently try out something new. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t live up to their own hopes, the process is what matters. When a child says, “Next time I will…” that is most exciting. Students taking ownership of their own learning is the best reward.


What are the goals for the future of art at Design39Campus?
We would like to get a small army of community volunteers to help create an art program that reaches all students in their integrated learning time throughout the year. Another goal is creating some public art pieces on campus that you would not expect to find at a school. This is a particular passion of mine and I push students hard to think beyond traditional school art.

What is the program’s mission?
The mission is to help students learn techniques they can use to create their own works of art and learn they can express themselves in ways other than through language. We want students to discover their inner artist so they can try out their own ideas and pursue art as a passion.


Maranatha Christian Schools

Q&A with Gracie Roads, Art Teacher

What types of art classes are provided at Maranatha Christian Schools?
For elementary and junior high, the MCS studio art classes are all-inclusive, involving many different media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. MCS’s upper grades enjoy the following elective courses in digital and studio arts: Studio Art and AP Art, Graphic Design, Art Photography, AP Photography, and Advanced Journalism, which includes yearbook.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part is being able to come alongside the students and see them enjoy being creative. I also love seeing their growth in skill and excitement over the years as they move through the program. Each grade builds on the instruction from the previous year – there is a flow and consistency from one grade to another.


What are some ways that community members can contribute?
MCS hosts an annual ArtFest every spring. We have the student art show set up from preschool through high school art, as well as music, a stage, games, food trucks, and vendors. Because it’s open to the community, we would love for our neighbors to come and enjoy it with us! We would also love to have local artists come and speak and share their work if they are interested in doing so.

What are the plans or goals for the future of art at MCS?
The school would love to have a building specifically designated for the arts, including studio, digital, and performing. When we have more space and more room for students, we will be able to offer a larger variety of specialized classes.

If you had to describe the program using only five words, what would you say?
Exploratory, engaging, expressive, energizing, and exciting.


Monterey Ridge Elementary School

Q&A with Kara Nigro (AKA Ms. Kara), Art Teacher

What types of art classes are provided at Monterey Ridge Elementary School?
Professional art lessons taught with a fun, energetic style. The students learn how to create designs with lines, creative abstract art, pointillism, impressionism, modern art, sketching, shading, and perspective. They also learn the value of observing art, rather than to judge it so quickly.

What is the program’s mission?
My mission is to make art fun and comfortable for everyone. If the students are happy, the process and final outcome of their experience will be everlasting.


How have the classes grown or changed over the years?
Our wonderful foundation supports the art program with contributions from its members. We were able to add one additional art lesson for each classroom. This has allowed me to be creative and teach lessons for holiday seasons, create works of art for our multicultural fair, and work with the teachers to have an art lesson that would correlate with their curriculum. I have noticed the skill level has increased a lot over the years. There is also a level of confidence that the kids have gained in the past five years.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I believe the most important thing is to establish a positive art environment. I like going to students’ classrooms, seeing where they sit, and appreciating the art they have done in their rooms. If a young person has a great experience with something so personal as art, they will have confidence to continue in the future. I have been teaching art lessons in the Poway Unified School District for 20 years. The experience teaching art at Monterey Ridge has been by far the most gratifying.


Stone Ranch Elementary School

Q&A with Cathy Keast, Art Corps Committee Lead Coordinator and Lisa Danzer, Principal

What types of art classes are provided at Stone Ranch Elementary School?
Cathy: We use the Art Corps program to teach art fundamentals in the classroom, with the complexity increasing with each grade level. These art lessons are taught by parent volunteers.

How did you become involved with the program?
Cathy: I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer in my oldest son’s kindergarten class. At first, I was very reluctant to sign up. My computer science degree and career at Hewlett-Packard definitely did not prepare me to teach art! So for the first year, I simply assisted during the lessons. The following year, I stepped into the teaching role when the only other Art Corps volunteer for the classroom moved.

Fast forward and I’m in my 10th year as an Art Corps volunteer. I now teach art lessons in my younger son’s classroom and am also on the Stone Ranch Art Corps Committee.


What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Cathy: My favorite time of the Art Corps year is the annual Stone Ranch Art Show. It’s fun to watch the students proudly lead their families to their artwork. The community is invited to view their amazing art at this year’s show on Thursday, May 14.

If you could grant the program one wish, what would it be?
Lisa: Stable funding – we fundraise each school year in order to purchase the Art Corps program and monthly training, as well as all of the necessary art materials. Our school community is grateful for all of our wonderful volunteers who donate their time and talent supporting the arts at Stone Ranch. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who makes it possible!


Turtleback Elementary School

Q&A with Shelley Rahim, Parent Volunteer

How did you become involved in teaching art at Turtleback?
When my son started kindergarten I realized that our school didn’t have a consistent art program. Since I am an artist myself and volunteered for Art Corps at Westwood Elementary for eight years, I offered to teach art in my son’s class. The students get one or two lessons per month and at the end of the year we have an art show for the parents to enjoy. My son is now in third grade and I have done this every year he has been at Turtleback.

What has been one of the most rewarding moments?
In the kindergarten class I taught, there was a student who struggled in all the main subjects, but she loved doing art and was pretty good at the two-dimensional art lessons I taught. Toward the end of the year, I taught the kids how to weave their own belts using a handloom made out of drinking straws. Only a couple of kids picked it up right away and finished their belt with ease. This little girl was one of those kids. It was the one thing that she excelled at, and then she was able to help her peers! Not only is art another way to develop parts of children’s brains that would otherwise go undeveloped, it instills a sense of confidence and self-pride.


Does the art program need any community assistance?
Yes! We would love to be able to expand what we have so that an artist-in-residence can offer the art program to all classes at Turtleback. We need grant funding to do this.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Art changes lives and is a crucial part of developing creative intelligence. As a society we are beginning to understand that through art children are also learning high-level math concepts, creative problem solving, developing a sense of autonomy, and having a more enjoyable time at school.


Westwood Elementary School

Q&A with Amber Stefanick and Jessica Nelson, Arts Corps Co-Directors

What types of art classes are provided at Westwood Elementary School?
With the Art Corps program, there are eight training workshops per grade level per year. Different concepts of art are explored through examples of famous art and a project focused on that concept.

How did you become involved with the program?
Amber: I became involved in Art Corps last year when the program was in danger of being canceled. I knew how much my daughter loved it and it was very important to me that the program continued. The most rewarding part is seeing how excited the kids are when they realize it’s an Art Corps day. I am constantly amazed at how creative the students are. It’s also very fun for me to see my own daughter light up when I come in to teach a lesson… she loves to have her mom in the classroom.


Jessica: When my oldest started kindergarten, I wanted to be involved in her classroom, but knew I was limited in what I could do with other younger children still at home. With a monthly time commitment of only two hours that allowed me to bring my children, this was something doable for me. The children love the Art Corps program and I enjoy seeing them excited for each lesson. My own children can’t wait to have their mom come in the classroom to introduce a new art objective and project. Seeing them in action and being a part of their school life is very rewarding for me.

What are some ways the community can contribute?
In May, each student will have a piece of artwork in our art show. That’s over 800 works for art, which makes for a super event! Included at the event is a silent auction where members of the community can donate items or services that will help fund our Art Corps program for the next year.


Willow Grove Elementary School

Q&A with Norma Sasson, Arts Attack Coordinator

What types of art classes are provided at Willow Grove Elementary School?
We have a program called Arts Attack headed up by parents. It is funded solely by the PTA and the art is taught by parent volunteers as well as teachers. We provide an extensive supply of art materials as well as tutorial DVDs to facilitate lessons.

How did you become involved with the program?
I had been an Arts Attack mom for a couple of years teaching art in the classroom. Michelle D’Esopo had been our coordinator for a few years but her kids were moving on and so she asked me to take over. My role as coordinator is to make sure supplies are kept up, filling the orders of supplies for each parent for their lesson on a daily basis, and assisting with any art questions parents may have.


What is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part is having art be accessible to every classroom and every student. I believe art is so very vital for children especially in the elementary years. This is the time where you get to see their imaginations flourish and grow. I believe it opens up the mind to possibilities the student didn’t know they had. To begin with one concept and expand on it with their own creativity is pretty cool. Sometimes the end result is nothing like they expected when they first began and I love seeing that amazement and sense of accomplishment in their eyes.

What are some ways that community members can contribute?
We get a great amount of parent volunteers coming in to teach art in the classrooms but more would be great! Any supplies that can be donated would also help out.


Oak Valley Middle School

Q&A with Jeff Cox (AKA Mr. C), Art Teacher

How did you personally become involved with the program?
I was contacted by Oak Valley Principal Casey Currigan last year to discuss an opportunity to assist in building a stronger art program at Oak Valley. My duties are lesson and units development that keep our students engaged while having fun. I do work with local businesses to create art projects that can be viewed within our community.

What is the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my role is providing a forum where students can be proud of what they create and creating art forms that they did know they were capable of. The most challenging part of my role is attaining the funds for materials to create projects.


What have been some of the most popular projects for the students?
I do a 3D Paper Mache Fish project that the students display and sell. We did this at Bay Park Fish Co., and the customer put in blind bids to buy the fish projects that were placed throughout the restaurant. The students received 80% of the money and the art program got the other 20%. One fish sold for over $150. I will be doing this project during the second semester.

Does the art program need any assistance from the community?
Yes, the students still need to attain funds for art materials such as ceramic wheels and other tools to complete sculpture projects from wood and plastics. I have already had some great help from the Oak Valley PTSA and the 4S Ranch-Del Sur Community Foundation in helping purchase a kiln for ceramics. Some great ways to help are donations of materials, wood, plastics, tools, and cash donations to Oak Valley Middle School Art Department.


Del Norte High School

Q&A with Patrick Coleman, Fine Arts Teacher

What types of art classes are provided at Del Norte High School?
We offer a wide range of fine art and electives classes. We offer drawing and painting, design and mixed media, ceramics, photography, computer animation, webpage design, digital video production, and digital photography. We align with our school mission of preparing all students to be college and career ready, future-focused, and globally aware. We challenge our students to think, speak, and create like professional artists.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part of my role is assisting and guiding students as they develop their passion and talent for the arts. I love sharing my passion for art, and its value in society. When students tell me that they see the world in a new and different way I feel like I have done my job.


What are the goals for the future of art at DNHS, and can the community help?
Our goals are to continue to support and grow our district, school and department mission. We are always striving to promote the arts and the value of the arts to our school, our community, and the world. We are also planning on integrating more technology into our fine arts programs. Our programs are always in need of support, and community members can donate through the DNHS foundation.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We hold an art show every trimester entitled Night at the Museum. All classes display their work from the trimester. Our next show is March 3 and runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the DNHS campus. People will be amazed by the level of work our students create as well as the depth of reflective understanding.