Donna Sartanowicz is the new Visual Arts Coordinator for Brookline Public Schools, but she is hardly new to the community. Sartanowicz has been working as an art teacher at the high school for the past 18 years.
How did you start working at the high school?
This is my 18th year, so I’ve been here for a long time. The whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been at the high school in the art department. If there’s a new part to the job for me, it’s getting to know the other eight schools. Each one has a very different character.
What were some of your standout college experiences at the Massachusetts College of Art?
I wasn’t a big fan of high school. I went to Medford High, which is very sports focused. I’m not a sports person, so I did not like high school. I never thought I was gonna step foot in another one again. I went to college right out of high school for a couple of years, and then I left because I just really didn’t feel like I was doing work that I wanted to do. When I really thought about being happy, and where I was happiest, it was a big surprise to me. I really liked college, and I liked wrestling with big questions, so when I thought about what would I like to do for a living for the first time I thought maybe I would be a teacher.
Would you say that your high school experiences changed your view on being a teacher?
In some respects, it’s like a reverse revenge fantasy. I did not like my teachers, and particularly, I did not like the one art class that I took in high school. So I had this vision that I was going to go back, and I was going to do it right — I was going to be the kind of teacher I wanted to have had in high school. I have a lot of sympathy for students who struggle in high school with the really traditional path that’s laid out for you.
If you could say one thing to your high school self, what would you have said?
I would say do not worry about what other people are thinking. What other people are thinking does not matter. It really doesn’t. You don’t want to be like other people. When you take control of life and make your own decisions, you’re not just sitting there and letting what everyone else wants you to know kind of, like, drop on you like rain. You have to grab the things that you want to know.