COURTESY JOSHUA HAYHURST
Local artist Andy Kay demonstrates calligraphy to Katherine Carcaterra's AP art history class.
Teacher sheds light on art history
"It's all about the 'chi,'" Andy Kay, an expert Chinese calligraphist, told a group of James Campbell High School students as they practiced their ink strokes on genuine Chinese papyrus paper in art history class. They had been studying art beyond the European tradition for the past week, and it was time for a small but practical and useful break.
Campbell High School
The Ewa Naupaka
91-980 North Road
Ewa Beach, Hawaii 97606
Katherine Carcaterra had invited him to the class for art lesson No. 2, after a successful first lesson on cave paintings. Arantxa Jan Medina, a senior in the class, said, "This was one of the best classes that we've had. We're usually taking notes all class period, but today it was an actual hands-on experience with something that we were studying." Carcaterra wants to add something more to learning about art, rather than the usual "What does this painting look like to you?" The former art history major wants the art to connect with the students and give them more than just a pretty picture. She wants to introduce a deeper meaning.
"Art history is so wonderful because it allows students to open their minds in and out of class," Carcaterra said. This might be because of all the interaction students have in the class. Not only do they have guest speakers come and speak to them about certain aspects of today's and yesterday's art, but they also are expected to have a class field trip to Paris in March. The study of art goes well beyond what is in print; they learn the ins and outs of art in our everyday world in architecture. The students were required to build models of historic cathedrals for Campbell's Advanced Placement night. "We all did different cathedrals that were built for different reasons and in different ways," said Shelli Wagner. "Being able to actually build them gave us insight to why it was built and how. Having to do this really taught everyone something new and gave us an even deeper meaning in appreciating the art."
However, art history is not all fun and games. The class is a combination of high school standards and college expectations. While students juggle the responsibilities of high school students, they take on the equivalent of a college workload. Students are required to read at home and take notes on what they are reading.
Bianca Burgess, a student at Campbell, said, "Many of my friends are enrolled in the art history class, and now beach days have turned into study groups ... dedicated to art history!" Even Carcaterra knows the amount of dedication and determination needed to pass the class, and gives herself a 5 out of 5 for strictness. Each day is vital, so missing even one day could be missing out on a unit that could be on the Advanced Placement exam. The AP courses offered at Campbell are for students who want a national focus on college prep. Students get a chance to take a college-level course for a year then take an exam that will test their knowledge at a college level and offer the opportunity of obtaining college credit.
Since the AP art history exam is hard to predict, students are expected to know about all the art and cultures as best they can. Carcaterra wants to make sure that each student is well prepared for the exam and for future knowledge of not only art, but history as well. "I expect students to open their eyes to a different way of seeing the world and history," said Carcaterra. Along with learning about art, students are also taught an abundance of cultural history. Students learn the influence of historical figures such as Julius Caesar, Hatshepsut, Jesus Christ and Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).
Student Eunice Comiso said, "I had no idea the class would be art and the history of the world. I thought it was going to be the history of art, not so much about all the war, plagues and victories that were going on at that time." Art history class is definitely not something students should enroll in unless they are prepared for late nights and a thick 5-pound textbook and have an appetite for the world history that inspires art.
However, Taylor Janca, a student enrolled in art history, said, "I would recommend this class to anyone willing to try it out. The class is amazing, and everyone is so dedicated to learning more and more. Ms. Carcaterra helps everyone whenever they need it. It's more than just learning for the sake of learning; it's learning to have fun while learning. That's what makes everything so great!"
Art history is said to not end at the graduation of the 2008 class. Unfortunately, Campbell is seeking a new art history teacher for the next school year so that the course can be offered again. Even though the art history course will be taught on the same grounds as this year, the class will not be the same without Carcaterra, the teacher who started it all. It seems as though no matter how tough or rigorous her art history course becomes, students in the course can never find a reason or a way to fail.
"Ms. Carcaterra gives her everything into the class that she loves," said Kimberly Dela Cruz, a senior enrolled in the course. "I can speak for everyone when I say that she'll never leave a student in the class just slip away, unless they really want to, and even that is hard to do. Ms. Carcaterra helps everyone." It is almost unmistakable that Carcaterra has infused a deeper meaning not only to art, but also to a student-classroom bond. Each student, when asked about the course, either smiled or laughed with a friend about something that had happened in the class, proving that behind the classroom walls, there was a friendship between classmates and the shared love of learning.
"The energy in her class is contagious," said Campbell teacher Claire Lambrecht. "It is not surprising that Ms. Carcaterra's students compare her to the teacher in the film 'Dangerous Minds.' She expects her students to go above and beyond the norm. Time and again, they rise to the challenge."
As scholar Joseph Campbell once said, "The job of the educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves."
In many ways, Carcaterra embodies that ideal. As Andy Kay said, "It's all about the 'chi,' it's all about the circulating life energy behind all things." And in this case, the art history class has enough chi to last them until there's no more art to learn.
With I.B. program, Campbell enters public school elite
James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach is the first public school in Hawaii to be given approval for the International Baccalaureate Programme.
Campbell will be joining more than 2,000 schools enrolled in the I.B. program all over the world. The I.B. program is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to further the academic boundaries for all students. Campbell will be offering the two-year Diploma Programme starting with students graduating in the class of 2010. This program is a challenging pre-university course that covers a full range of academic subjects ranging from literature, second languages, business management, science, mathematics and the arts.
This is just one of many improvement initiatives at Campbell. Graduates of the I.B. Diploma Programme are welcomed by the nation's top universities.
"Our status as James Campbell High School has gone up," said student Robinson Bucaneg. "We have private schools talking about it, and we're starting to compete with them. Hawaii's education isn't so great now, and it doesn't really measure up to mainland standards but if you were to come to Hawaii and go to a public school, Campbell High School would be the best school to go to."
A team of teachers led by the International Baccalaureate coordinator, Julie Do, along with Campbell Principal Gail Awakuni completed a two-year-long application. Teachers underwent extensive training and preparation to bring this program to the Campbell student body.
"There is life past Renton Road," Do said in a Jan. 7 interview with the Honolulu Advertiser. "If our students are going to be successful, they have to be able to compete in a global society. We have to give them every opportunity to achieve." In a later interview, she added, "There's a whole wide world out there, and we shouldn't just limit ourselves to just our small community or just our island in a sense of thinking about how we fit and how our students can compete with other students from around the world, other students from across the country, other students from the rest of Oahu, that our students are just as talented."
Campbell will be using the "open enrollment" policy. Students who have the desire and drive to take such advanced university courses will not be rejected due to grade point average or any other reasons that would have normally stopped them from entering such rigorous courses. Ms. Jones, an honors English teacher for the sophomore class, says to her students, "Coming out of a school that is an I.B. school is a big, huge assistance for you guys on your (college) applications."
As Campbell continues to grow and thrive on the ability to achieve and succeed, this new test of I.B. academics will prove a worthy task to all future students. Awakuni as well as other faculty and staff have a dream for the school and the children who walk through its halls. The road ahead looks bright.
"Who is your favorite teacher?"
"Ms. Natividad, because she's a cool teacher and she helps me when I need it."
"Ms. Carcaterra and Ms. Lambrecht, because they help me whenever I ask for it. They're not like other teachers; they're really something different."
"Mrs. Fujioka, because she presents English in an easy, fun and understandable way."
"Mr. Pacheco, because he sees the world from a teenager's point of view."