photo-1“Yes, create!”

Positive artistic energy exuded from Jennifer when she and I sat down in my office to talk about what San Dieguito was like in the late 1970s and she remembered that two word urging from her ceramics teacher to engage artistically with the world: “Yes, create!” It’s a call she heeded.

A class of ‘79 grad, Jennifer not only attended art classes at San Dieguito, she also took biology from legendary science teacher John Hewitson …who also happened to be her dad. When we talked, her stories of her father’s love of teaching at San Dieguito were as rich as what she said about her own experiences.

“He kept a fourteen foot long reticulated python named Stretch in his classroom,” she remembered. “And finally gave it to SDSU because he got so big and was still growing!” There wasn’t room for Stretch in the classroom, what with the two rattlesnakes he also kept there. 1979 was a different world.

snakeBut Mr. Hewitson’s penchant for reptiles didn’t mean he was a one dimensional person; he painted (mostly pictures of trout), was an avid fisherman, and took his job as a teacher very seriously. “I had him for bio,” Jennifer told me, “and one day after I’d been absent, home sick, I got to class and he told me that I needed to go to the office and get a note before I could come back to class.” Really? I asked her. She smiled. “But even in class I always called him ‘Dad.’”

Teachers who saw their students with familial affection were present across campus. Jennifer remembered Ms. Delise, her printmaking teacher, being “so nice” and so supportive of the creative spirits of her young artists. “We used acid wash to engrave metal plates in Ms. Delise’s class,” she said. “Not as safe as today, but the results were amazing.”

Amazing too was the passion and purpose teachers brought to their work with students. Jennifer told the story of her photography teacher, Mr. Bonnafoux, who greeted them on the first day of class with an expensive camera hanging from around his neck. He made sure that he had all their attention as he began talking about the joys of photography, and then took the camera and flung it across the room where it landed with a crash. Open jawed the class got silent. “And that,” Mr. Bonnafoux told them, “is how worthless a camera becomes when it has been ruined by sand. That one was taken to the beach. DO NOT take your cameras to the beach.” Jennifer never did.

From Red Heuton’s “Epistemics” class, that another teacher described as “a bunch of kids contemplating their navels in the quad” to the Ms. Martin’s class on Women’s Studies that resonated with a young Jennifer, teaching and learning at San Dieguito in the late 70s had the scent of freedom and the spirit of adventure. If a class could be imagined it might be taught.

photo-3-1Jennifer captured that spirit in the drawing of a winged Mustang that flies over the cover of the 1977 Hoofprint. To have her artwork selected as the cover of the yearbook meant much to her as a sophomore artist, and looking back now the sense of expectation and excitement in that flying horse is still palpable.

Jennifer’s son is a student at San Dieguito now, and looks forward to taking classes from science teachers who knew his grandfather. I hope that he carries on Jennifer’s independence, joy for life, and creativity, and that our school always whispers in the ears of our students: “Yes, create!”

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