Two Los Alamitos Unified School District teachers have been honored for enriching the lives of students through arts education. Jeannine Ball, who teaches photography at Los Alamitos High School, was named Outstanding Arts Educator of 2018, and Sherry Tanaka, who teaches art at McAuliffe Middle School, was named the Middle School Visual Art Teacher of the Year. Both received their awards from the Orange County Music and Arts Administrators (OCMAA) organization at a ceremony at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Board member, Diana Hill, Superintendent Kropp, Principal Ann Allen, Assistant Principal David Moellenkamp, and PTA Council Chair for the Arts Donna Chin, joined the festivities to help celebrate this special accomplishment.
OCMAA is a network of school district leaders, community arts educators, business, and parents dedicated to
quality, equity and access to arts programs for all students.
Jeannine Ball has taught photography at Los Alamitos High School for 20 years and taught 15 years in
community college earlier. Principal Dr. Brandon Martinez called Ball “a tireless arts educator who first and
foremost believes that every student can learn how to be an excellent photographer.” Martinez said, however,
that taking pictures is only a part of Ball’s teaching.
“She engages students on behavioral, emotional, and cognitive levels. Through these learning experiences, students learn about accountability and responsibility by taking care of equipment, managing ongoing tasks, and using time outside of class to take photos,” Martinez said. “She also gets students to care about each other, their school community, and themselves.”
Jeannine Ball, who teaches all levels of photography from beginner to Advanced Placement, said that students learn how art can reveal the complexity of the world around them.
“I believe that photography and the arts generally allow students to connect with their community, the world and themselves,” Ball said. She said she is especially proud that her AP students, many of whom had never challenged themselves academically, have been able to “accomplish a goal that they felt was beyond their abilities and create an outstanding portfolio of work.”
Sherry Tanaka has been teaching art in the Los Alamitos school district for 37 years and currently teaches students in grades 6-8 at McAuliffe. Principal Ann Allen said Tanaka is “an exemplary art instructor who challenges students to use their brains to see, think and express themselves in innovative ways.”
At the core of her program, Allen said, Sherry Tanaka teaches students about the principles of design including rhythm, unity, balance and emphasis. Her students draw, paint, design and build three-dimensional works. She leads them on an annual trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, but the centerpiece of her instruction is right at home. Her students have the option to study an artist in detail and produce a work in the artist’s style to display in the hallways of the school.
“Students have worked with her on these projects for over 35 years, and the hallways and ceilings are covered with original student artwork, a breathtaking sight to behold,” Principal Allen said.
Sherry Tanaka said the visual arts emphasize the unique individuality of students and challenge them to be “creative, innovative and solve problems—thinking that can be used in every subject.”
“Art is a universal language that transcends time, culture and language barriers,” Tanaka said. “Art is for everybody.”
This article was written by Robert Ostmann, Los Alamitos Unified School District.