VAPA Artistic Growth Awards Honor Two SDUSD Teachers

Posted: Monday, April 8th 2019


SDSCPA music teacher John Reynolds receives his award from Board of Education President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and VAPA Director Russ Sperling.

The San Diego Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department recognizes students, teachers, administrators, and community members in their annual VAPA Spotlight Awards. The awards, which are sponsored by the VAPA Foundation, are presented to nominees who represent the strength of the district’s arts programs. This year’s Awards Ceremony was held on March 13, 2019 in the Board Room of the Eugene Brucker Education Center. Sixteen awards were presented in six different categories.

This is No. 3 of 6 in a series of profiles on the winners of the 2019 VAPA Spotlight Awards.

The Artistic Growth Awardhonors those who demonstrate exceptional progress, perseverance, and a remarkable increase in artistic development. While the category is open to all, both of this year’s winners are SDUSD arts teachers.

John Reynolds leads the jazz program at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SDSCPA). John inspires his students to learn, but more importantly to be their very best selves. Despite the budget limitations of a public Title I school, the SDSCPA Jazz Ensemble was selected as one of fifteen finalists in the Essentially Ellington HS Jazz Competition in both 2016 and 2019. John provides impactful opportunities for his students, such as bringing professional guest artists from San Diego's jazz scene to members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to teach master classes at SDSCPA. When he was 17 years old, an experience seeing the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra himself was a particularly important encounter. He waited in line to get an autograph from Wynton Marsalis. After he asked a trumpet-related question, Wynton took him aside and gave him a 10-minute mini-lesson. John credits seeing Wynton’s passion for music displayed on and behind stage as forever changing the way he felt about the art form.

Erin Cortes is a visual art teacher at Taft Middle School, but she also works diligently to create theatre opportunities for her students. She led the application process for her school to be selected as a JumpStart Theatre school, where they are provided all the resources and support to build a theatre program, when they had none before. Erin advocated for and began offering a theatre class during the school day so more students would be able to participate. She works many weekends to bring equity and access to those students available during the weekends. She develops relationships with parents, families and other teachers to create a sustainable theatre program. Erin says, “As a visual arts instructor for San Diego Unified for over the past 15 years, I am privileged to witness firsthand how the arts transform the lives of our students. The arts not only benefit our youth, but our entire community. As an educator and community member, I believe it our responsibility to provide these opportunities for our youth to be well-rounded, creative contributors to society, as all of our lives are transformed through the arts.”

PICTURED ABOVE: Taft Middle School visual art/theatre teacher Erin Cortes receives her award from Board of Education President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and VAPA Visual Art Resource Teacher Marty Stegeman.

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