Artistry springs to life in Beth Bailey's ceramics classroom at Joel Barlow High School. From the pottery wheel to the drying kiln, this art teacher is glazing a trail while her students reap the benefits.
"The things that I see these students doing and achieving, in my class and outside of my class, I am completely blown away with daily," Bailey said. "When I think about my high school experience ... I didn't make the same type of connections with my teachers as some of the students do here."
Bailey's affable and down-to-earth sensibility seems to impact her students. And she's more likely to shower others with praise than monopolize the spotlight.
"She's awesome -- I want to be her when I grow up," Barlow senior Vanessa Pagan said as Bailey threw up her hands to block the praise. "She's just very laid-back, and she explains things so thoroughly and at a rate we can understand."
When Bailey arrived at Barlow in 1998, she was instantly hooked. "Here, the students, for the most part, are very well-adjusted and well-behaved and are interested and open to learning what you have to offer them," she said.
The art program at that time consisted of herself and another teacher. Today, there are five full-time art teachers offering classes such as jewelry, printmaking, art history, Photoshop imaging and ceramics.
A stroll down the halls at Barlow reveals a seemingly endless gallery of student art, a product of Bailey's commitment to her students and to the value of public space installations.
Before coming to Barlow, Bailey taught at three schools, including a Japanese school in Greenwich. "That was a really interesting experience," she remembered. "Majority of the students spoke very little English."
This enabled her to strengthen her skills using visual aids, a valuable attribute when teaching art, she said.
Teaching is a passion she shares with her husband, J.R. Condosta, who teaches earth science at Ridgefield High School. They have two children, Charlie, 8, and Lily, 5. "At this stage in my life, what I really like to do the most is just be with my family."
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