Photography teacher Kestenbaum to retire after 31 years

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Sam Klein / Sagamore Staff

Lizzy Filine, Arts Writing Editor

The ceramics room is covered with posters with inspirations and aspects of composition for students to consider: Elements of Design, Contrast, Movement Artistic Thinking Wheel. Bulletin boards labeled “Good Viewing Place” display student work. As an instructor working at the high school for over thirty years, photography teacher Leon Kestenbaum has inspired students by guiding them artistically, yet still giving them room to explore and express their own ideas.

This year, Kestenbaum announced that he is on retiring from his job as a high school art teacher.

Kestenbaum said that he is retiring because he hopes to have time to develop his own artistic skills. However, he also said he hopes to continue teaching a few times per week.

“I love working with students and seeing them develop their ideas,” Kestenbaum said. “I definitely plan on teaching, just less hours.”

Kestenbaum said he found the most important part of being a teacher is to be a person who allows students to expand on their interests using basic tools.

“As a teacher, my biggest role is acting as a reflective surface off of which students can bounce off their ideas,” Kestenbaum said. “It’s up to them to generate those ideas, and it’s my job to encourage them.”

Senior Anna Aristokova, who has taken Photography I and II as well as an independent study with Kestenbaum, said that the photography classes were important for her to find patience and inspiration for her art.

“I took Photography I the first semester freshman year,” Aristokova said. “As a freshman, I was scared of being at the high school, but Mr. Kestenbaum was encouraging. It was largely why I decided to keep on taking it later.”

Junior April Bagnani, who has taken Photography I and II as well as an independent study, said that Kestenbaum has taught her to explore the world in a different way.

“I can see something and find a way to capture it in an interesting way, and it’s something I’ve never considered before,” Bagnani said, “Photography is definitely an experience I’ve really enjoyed.”

Kestenbaum said that every day he works with students is a moment he cherishes.

“I constantly see improvement and artistic breakthroughs, and as a teacher, that’s inspiring for me to see,” Kestenbaum said. “Every day, it’s interesting for me to see how students think and what they draw from for ideas.”

Both Bagnani and Aristokova said they were surprised when they heard that Kestenbaum was retiring, and said that they will miss having him as a teacher in the future.

“I think the school will experience a big loss after Kestenbaum leaves,” Aristokova said. “He is such a positive force in the community, and everyone has a lot to learn from him.”

Kestenbaum said that his advice for students is to pursue art because of its ability to explore and expand. He also said that people should seek artistic outlets because it is rewarding to see the outcomes.

“Look for the spiritual in the world and in your life because there you’ll meet your deeper self,” Kestenbaum said, “And to everyone you meet, above all, be kind.”