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MEHS Art Instructor is HUSD Teacher of the Year

MEHS Art Instructor is HUSD Teacher of the Year

Mt. Eden High School’s Visual Arts teacher Carrie King is HUSD’s Teacher of the Year. She will join other teachers from Alameda County school districts as nominees for county Teacher of the Year. All the teachers will be honored at an event this fall. 

King is in her 31st year of teaching at Mt. Eden, and until her Art 1 classroom was recently vacated for an overdue refurbishing, it was an eclectic, welcoming space, covered wall-to-wall with years of student art. 

In nominating her for the award, Assistant Principal William Wright wrote:

“She has been able to create an environment of learning art at MEHS that has transcended the walls of our school. Through her passion and care for the arts, Carrie has encouraged and motivated students into believing not only in their artistic abilities, but their human abilities as well. The world needs more Carrie Kings.”

We visited King in her temporary classroom to discuss the award and her passion for teaching.

carrie king

On winning the award

We were at a luncheon thing in the library, and it was voluntary, and I almost didn’t go. There were some people already in the library from a previous meeting, and [Principal] Monique [Walton] said, “We have some good news, one of our teachers is Teacher of the Year. And I immediately thought, “That's amazing, which one of our English teachers is it, which Social Studies teacher is it, which beloved teacher is it? And then she said it was me, and I could not have been more shocked. I didn't see that coming at all.

Why she became an art teacher

Art saves lives. I know, because it saved mine. The person who provided that life-saving art for me was my (high school) art teacher. That's the driving force. I try to be the teacher that I needed when I was a trainwreck. 

For many teenagers, it’s a very challenging time for so many different reasons. Art teachers and English teachers, we are like the therapists for so many of our kids. They come to us with all of their trauma, and it's a safe place to get it out. I go out of my way to provide a very safe space. And it’s just my personality, kids like talking to me. 

I know the power of how art can help a kid who is locked in a shell of their own making to keep themselves safe, and it can help them open up, and it can help them get the help they need…whether it’s just the mental relaxation of drawing or throwing paint on canvas or literally getting services. I think all of those things can happen in an art room and have happened.

Why her work is fulfilling

I have the best job in the world. The relationships I have with my students, I know the families and extended families of so many of my kids, and building those relationships and having that connection with people…having that bond. I build a family in my classroom every year, and at graduation I’m a mess every year. I am just a sobbing baby because I know that I have to say goodbye to my family. 

I keep coming back because it’s fun. I get to make art with kids all day. I get to help them take their crazy ideas and get them out on paper.

The importance of art education

I (have) felt this huge divide between the art that is currently being made by contemporary artists and the public. There is a chasm there, and the only way to bridge that gap is through education. The education piece, that’s where my heart is.

The students

They come out of their shell a little bit. It's a requirement that they collaborate in my class. So they don’t just have one art teacher, they have a whole class of art teachers where they are empowered to support each other, and that builds that family.

Critiquing is another thing that helps them become a bonded group. I lead them in critiques, small-group and class critiques. That pushes them to learn to take criticism—and not as a personal attack—and learn how to give criticism. It's all about helping an artist become better. We do “speed-date” critiques where they sit one-on-one across from each other, and then I say, “OK, time!” and then they move. And everybody is talking and everybody is helping each other. It’s the best.

So I’m not just teaching them art. I’m teaching them through art. 

“Kids these days”

When I hear people say “Kids these days…” I graduated in 1987. The only difference between kids in ‘87 and 2024 is the access to technology. That’s it. They are so much more articulate now about themselves, about their identities and about other people. They have a more worldly connection to each other, and to the world at-large. Students know so much more about the world than I ever did at their age. 

Her favorite art medium

My favorite material is the next one I’m using. If you look at my particular artwork, I rarely use the same thing twice. I’m inspired by the materials. Sometimes I’m painting on broken glass with acrylic and resin, sometimes charcoal , sometimes watercolor, sometimes something crazy. Oil pastel on sandpaper is intriguing me right now. My favorite medium is the next new thing that I have not explored yet

Watch videos of previous HUSD Teachers of the Year:

2023: Janette Johnson

2022: Sarah Reavis

2021: Thalia McNeil-Smith

2020: Jose Tañada