Advice from our beautiful COARTS department teachers

By ANA-SOFIA MUÑOZ
STAFF WRITER
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Kelly Hernandez

How long have you been teaching art?

“[I have been teaching art for] sixteen years.”

Why did you decide to teach art?

“I enjoy helping students realize [the] talent they did not know they had, [and] gain the skill of [performing it well].”

How do you inspire students through your teaching?

“I try to teach [students] technical skills [and give them] a strong foundation, so that in the future, when they want to get more creative, they have the [ability] to [make their art] look good. [I try] to teach them how to [paint or draw] very well so that they then have the skills to [create] anything they envision.”

What are your hobbies outside of school?

“I enjoy tap dancing, swing dancing and [taking care of] my French bulldog Frank.”

What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?

“It has to be Australia, because [I got] to hold a koala.”

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DeJohn Brown

Why do you think the Wilson Conservatory of the Arts (CoArts) program is important?

“The program is [intended] for the [students] who really take an interest in [the arts] and are looking to build communities in those endeavours. [CoArts] can be really beneficial [for those students] by allowing them to see art from a different vantage point.”

What is your favorite thing about teaching choir?

“My favorite thing is seeing students find their voice, because [people can be scared] to show who they truly are. When a person taps into [their voice], [it can be] really amazing and beautiful.”  

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to improve their singing skills?

“Think about why you enjoy your favorite singers and [the things] they do, and [try] to emulate that. Once you have a better understanding of [how and why] they do [those things], make it your own.”

What other careers have you considered besides teaching?

“When I was younger, I wanted to join the navy or be an aeronautical engineer. I almost became an accountant, but [working with] numbers [was] a little bit boring for me.”

Would you rather be able to know your future or change the past?

“I would rather know the future, so I could start to prepare [in making it] even brighter. The things [I have done in the past] make me who I am now, so I [would not] want to change any of that.”

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Nina Chang

How do you think dance provides a creative outlet for students?

“Dance provides so many ways for students to express their emotions [and] to be free and expressive. [Students] do not have to be perfect dancers, [because] dance is really all about being able to express [one’s] feelings and emotions using [their] body.”

What is the most difficult part about teaching dance?

“[One of the most difficult things] is making sure [students] do not feel defeated because they are [unable] to execute a certain skill. [I] just try and motivate them so they know that [dancing] takes time and practice, and success will not be [achieved] overnight.”

What keeps you motivated in your teaching?

“The students. There are always new trends in dance, and the [students] bring in those trends, so [teaching dance] is always evolving.”

If you could revisit any moment in your life, what would it be and why?

“My college years. I feel like I was [much] more mature [in college] than in high school, and I danced [nearly] 24/7.”

Ketchup or mustard?

“Both.”

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Kiley Craft

When did you first take an interest in photography?

“I started taking pictures to express myself when I was in high school.”

Did you have any teachers who inspired you growing up, and how did they inspire you?

“I had a woodshop teacher named Mr. Mitch. As computers became popular in the classroom, he [also] taught graphic design classes. I [took an interest] in graphic design, animation and multimedia, and that is what I went to college for.”

How do you think the CoArts program can help students better prepare for their future?

“Studying a [particular] subject for three or four [years] to establish [a] laureate or master laureate status shows employers and colleges [a student’s] dedication and fortitude. [In addition], all of the arts [often] feed into each other, so the interdisciplinary [aspect] of CoArts [makes students] more employable and diverse in their skillset.”

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Pasta.”

Favorite movie?

“I really like Serendipity. I think its music is interesting, and there is something about the story that I feel drawn to.”

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Kim Weaver

How do you think the drama department contributes to the school?

“The drama department [provides] the students involved [an] opportunity to get comfortable in front of large crowds, become better at giving speeches and also [provides] exciting and fun activities for the other students to attend, [such as] Haunted Theatre, Murder Mystery and musicals.”

What is your favorite show that you have put on?

“I love The Curious Savage. I have done it twice, it is one of my favorite plays and it [has] a wonderful theme of loving and accepting people as they are [without] trying to change them.”

Why did you take an interest in drama?

“I [have always] loved theatre. I think it is a very special place where people can feel [like] themselves and I wanted to make sure that [students] could have that safe space. If students are not doing well academic-wise, theatre is a place where they can succeed.”

If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

“William Shakespeare, because I want to ask him so many questions about how and why he wrote his plays.”

What is your biggest fear?

“My biggest fear [is] eventually doing [things] [in a way] that does not impact the people that I am around, and I am [also] afraid of Tinkerbell taking over the world.”

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Rich Torres

How do you try to connect with your students?

“I get to know them. [Because I am] around [my students] a lot, it helps [me to understand] [each student’s] energy and emotions, so that when they are not feeling up to [speed] on a particular day, I can approach them [about it] and have a relationship with them [in which] they feel comfortable enough to share [information] with me.”

In what ways has being a band director improved your life?

“[Being a band director] has given me an opportunity to give back to students and to pass on my knowledge to young musicians. I get to pay forward what my band director did for me, and I feel like I am doing something good [in] the world by elevating [students’] experience while they play music [in high school].”

When did you know that you wanted to be a band director?

“I knew I wanted to be a band director in 2002 when my band director passed away, [right after] I graduated high school. That was not my major at the particular time, so I ignored [that feeling]. I studied something else for a [few] years, until I realized [that] I really [wanted to pursue] being a band director [in] around 2004.”

Favorite Disney princess?

“Woody.”

Do you believe in aliens?

“Yes. I am sure there is something out there. [As for] whether they are here in Area 51, I doubt it.”

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Vincent Van Groenou

What have you learned through teaching graphic design?

“I have learned that students are resourceful and creative. Every generation brings something new to the table, and every time I am with a new group of [students] there is always something [different] that they explore.”

How do you think you’ve improved as a teacher over the course of your career?

“I am more insightful of what students’ needs are. [My students] give me inspiration to create better lesson plans and assignments. Every student contributes to what I plan [to teach] future [groups] of students.”

What do you hope students will gain through taking your class?

“[I hope they will gain] work-related skills that they can use outside of class, regardless of what career they go into. [I hope that] they can utilize the skills that I [teach] them for a number of different careers.”

What is your favorite flower?

“A bird of paradise.”

What is the most memorable story or book you have read?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, because it gave me more insight on how other people live and how they can see things differently than everyone else.”

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