These art teachers of the Hackensack Public School district were honored by the Art Educators of New Jersey. Left to right, art teachers Cheryl Donatuccio, Karen Randolph, Cheryl Parisi, Cne` Soukas and Art Educators of New Jersey Youth Art Month Chairperson Carrie Russoniello, who nominated the teachers for the award. Not pictured are art teachers Kate Seborowski and Jennifer Weigand. (image via

I came across this wonderful story in the Hackensack Chronicle and my heart melted. Art teachers are the heart and soul of the visual arts but they often don’t get the recognition they deserve. I was happy to hear that this small group of teachers in Hackensack was recognized by the Art Educators of New Jersey for their service.

I have personally benefited immensely from great art teachers and I’ve been fortunate enough to have quite a few along the way.

The one who made the biggest impression on me was Toronto painter Ron Satok, who is famous for having painted a prominent mural at the original Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Incredibly, Satok is blind. He was already an established painter when he lost his sight in 1976 as a result of glaucoma.

When I encountered him in the late 1980s and early 90s he was working in Toronto schools teaching children about visual art. How did he do that? By explaining that art wasn’t only what you could see but also feel and hear. He would often concentrate his lessons — often daylong — on one color and we would explore that color throughout the day through music, word association, sketches, and everything you could imagine. Satok was an incredible teacher and he taught me more about visual art than any 12 year old normally knows. Eventually he established the Satok School of the Arts in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Toronto and Googling his name while writing this post I discovered he had a retrospective last year.

Let’s face it, art teachers — whether blind or sighted — are just inspirational. And I for one am thankful they do what they do even though it may be an underpaid and thankless job. Thank you art teachers of the world!

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

6 replies on “Art Teachers Rock!”

  1. This is so great. I was born, bred, and still live in Hackensack. Mrs. Parisi was my art teacher when I was in either the 2nd or 3rd grade!

  2. We should do some kind of art teacher story collection, there are so many people to thank. Personally, Mrs. Soucie from New Milford High School totally changed my life.

  3. Here’s my story: I was an uninstructed ceramics wunderkind in high school and my and most of my peers’ greatest, largest, most elaborate pieces ALWAYS mysteriously “fell over” or “blew up in the kiln.” My art teacher was a bitter shrew who destroyed children’s works because they made her feel inadequate as an artist, which she was, illustrated by the fact that she taught art at a public school in a suburb of a second-tier city in a (then-)uncultured region of Florida.

    (It’s now deemed “cultured” because international art fags have descended upon Miami in droves.)

    1. One answer to your comment…Florida, and I don’t mean it to put down the whole state but just that there is some strange shit that happens there that no one can ever explain.

  4. I had a great art teacher for part of high school. Linh Nguyen in Arlington TX was (and still is) just SO enthusiastic about art, and helping kids figure stuff out to make their visions happen. His enthusiasm made me think that it might just be possible to make a career from art, and it’s true!

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