Placer art teachers share their influence through art


Story by Hannah Yazdi, Opinions Editor

The art hall at Placer High School has had a long, colorful history since 1897. Teachers and students have come and gone, pieces of every medium have covered the walls of the school, and Placer has even had some phenomenal award winners in its green and gold alumni. With an abundance to teach, the current art teachers, residing in the 300’s rooms, are producing fresh artists every day. Kaija Perkins-Uno currently teaches Advanced Art, AP Art Studio, and Art 1. She is incredibly passionate and has a strong sense for expression. She is also the first teacher to teach Placer’s brand new AP Art class. Kaija is a natural born art lover who has forever been enthusiastic about art. Uno states, “I didn’t really choose to teach art; it chose me.” Although she did not always know she wanted to be a teacher, after observing her mother as a high school art teacher, she discovered how much she loved it as a career. Just after graduating UC Davis, she talked to the principal at Placer and told her to
hire her. and she has been teaching high school art ever since. Upstairs from Kaija is our Photography and Drama teacher — Jason Long. He’s a super mystical, grounded guy (fun fact — he used to be a part of Blue Man Group in Boston, Chicago, and NYC!). He has a love for helping kids strive high and achieve their creative goals. “My favorite part about teaching in the arts is seeing students light up when they experience breakthrough moments in their creativity,”expressed Long. Jason says he chose to teach art for many reasons, including that arts education improves creativity, critical thinking, decision making, confidence, focus, collaboration, etc. “I see tremendous value in helping students develop those important aspects of learning.” Jason, alongside his inventive peers in the fine arts hall, all do tremendous jobs supporting Placer art students on their artistic journeys. Down the stairs from Jason is Tim Johnson, but don’t call him Tim or Mr. Johnson, because he goes by Red (how cool is
that?). Red is a super funky, amusing, lighthearted and easy going guy, who kills it at everything from playing awesome music to making stencils. He teaches Printmaking and Art 1. Red has been a teacher for 20 years and has come to discover the many prospects of art that he loves and appreciates the most. Red states, “The best part about my job is getting to see and share in the creativity put forth by students year after year. I have had many unique creative students in the 20 years I have been teaching and it’s always exciting to discover and foster new talent.” Since Red has been teaching art for 20 years, and even took art at Placer High with Mario, Toby, and Kim, (the art teachers from way back) whom he said were a huge reason he became an art teacher, he has seen and taught students out of high school who are still pursuing art
to this day. In this same department, we have someone that hasn’t been involved in Placer culture as long as Red, but has the same attitude and enthusiasm. New this year in the art department, Katy Fries is our new ceramics teacher. She’s known that teaching was her passion since age 17. She found her love for art and creativity after seven years at an elementary school in Folsom – where she then proceeded to art school, and found a strong connection to the art community here in Auburn! She’s made her mark on Placer’s campus and our community, from working in our Special Education
department to coordinating three mosaic murals around town. “I have gained a clear artistic voice from my time working with art and other artists. I know who I am, and what I have to say visually. Teaching art allows me the great privilege to encourage others to do the same,”Fries expressed. Personally, I’ve spent every year of my high school career in this art hall, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. There’s a free, expressive, and creative culture that our art teachers try so hard to instill in our students; and so far, from everything I’ve seen, they’ve all done an amazing job.