TJ Lechtenberg, now in his third year of teaching art and photography at Valley High School, encourages his students to explore their creativity. It not only unveils hidden talents in some of them, but it makes better learners out of all of them.
“I love working with kids this age, helping them find something they can be successful at and discovering their creative side,” he says. “They’re so capable at this age, and when they find that out, it’s awesome.”
Lechtenberg says art classes are important because they stimulate the right side of a student’s brain.
“It forces them to come up with creative solutions to problems,” he says.
For some students, art classes are an oasis in a sea of left-brain coursework awash with math and science in which they don’t always excel and subsequently feel left out.
“An art atmosphere is better for some students, making it more comfortable for them to learn from their mistakes,” says Lechtenberg. “For some kids, art is the reason they show up for school.”
Lechtenberg says he enjoys seeing students mature during their three years at Valley, especially those he taught while working as the art teacher at Westridge Elementary School nearly 10 years ago.
“It’s exciting when they come back and want to take art classes. Maybe I connected with them when they were little,” he says.
Lechtenberg says he cherishes that kind of rapport with students and the opportunity to teach art at Valley.
“I have three amazing colleagues in the art department who help to elevate our classes,” he says. “I love that the kids here have a number of art classes to choose from. It helps them become well rounded students and to reach their potential.”