Arts teachers share world-class experience with students



Photography teacher Amanda FitzPatrick gives feedback on a photo by junior Sara Burgi of Matawan in Photography I class.

Carla Vreeland and Ella Lukowiak

Photography and Graphic Arts teacher Amanda FitzPatrick takes the techniques and knowledge she has learned in the field and applies it to her teaching at CHS. 

“In 2016 I started an LLC of my own — Amanda FitzPatrick LLC. I am always learning new techniques depending on lighting and locations that I like to bring back to my classroom, so that keeps me fresh,” FitzPatrick said. 

FitzPatrick spoke about her experiences at CHS compared to the school she previously taught at and how she uses her real-life experience in the classroom. 

FitzPatrick, who transitioned to CHS in 2018, came in hopes of being challenged.

“I was stagnant, there was no more forward moving growth,” FitzPatrick said, “The minute Mr. Gleason walked me down to see this room after the interview [for the position], I was like there’s so much that I would need to learn to teach in this space. The wheels immediately started turning and the fire was lit to learn something new.” 

Similarly to FitzPatrick, design teacher Laura Fallon has been teaching at CHS for 15 years. Fallon said her interest in teaching was sparked when she was put in charge of training the recently hired employees at her design firm. 

“I got put in charge of training the new hires and it was almost like a teaching experience. I got to show them the ropes, share the successes of their first few jobs and learn along with them. I think it made me realize that I would enjoy doing that all the time.” Fallon said. 

During the first few years of teaching at CHS, Fallon still pursued a freelancing career. While she stopped her freelance work after becoming a mother, she continues to learn about each new graphic design trend. 

“I think I’m still a very avid follower of the industry. Just keeping up, reading about it, and studying,” Fallon said. 

Design and Studio Art teacher Shelley Ortner also left behind her graphic design job to pursue teaching. She enjoys being able to influence students with her experience, and has found that often her students impact her life, in return.

“They inspire me to look inside myself and not just do a job but to still tap into the things I’m passionate about,” Ortner said.

Ortner got her start in the field as a graphic designer, and after gathering teaching experience in New Brunswick, Ortner was able to get a feel for which age group of students she was best suited for. When the CHS opening came up, it enabled her to continue her own personal art while also teaching high school students.

“I wanted to teach where I could continue to do graphic design as a teacher, and because of CHS’s model, it made me think this is the perfect job,” Ortner said.

As an AP Studio Art teacher, Ortner loves how she is able to watch her students develop strong personal styles and grow confident in their work.

Senior Serena Kahn of Union Beach explained how having the opportunity to take Ornter’s AP Studio Art class has allowed her to learn more about the art field and improve  her skills. 

“She does everything she can to make sure we’re following the principles of design. And if we’re progressing with our art, that we incorporate other skills to make it better each time,” Kahn said. “She definitely uses her experience from what she’s seen in past years and what she’s done in college.”