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Teacher Spotlight: Brandon Teris

While not everyone has gotten to experience Mr. Teris teaching, he remains a popular figure among art lovers and students here at Santa Barbara High. As a teacher of freehand drawing and painting for the VADA program in addition to calligraphy for general education students, Teris has become well known for his wit and the warm environment of his classroom. His inclusive nature and supportive atmosphere have stimulated the creativity of his students and made him a popular nomination for The Forge’s teacher spotlight of the month. 

Teris has been a teacher for 15 years, the last eight of which have been spent at SBHS. He knew that he wanted to be a high school art teacher as early as tenth grade, and went straight into teaching after graduating from UCSB. At UCSB, Teris began playing pool every day in the dorm recreation room, and improved his skills to now become the number one player in the Santa Barbara Pool League. He has fallen in love with the sport and hopes to one day start a Santa Barbara High School Billiards Club to introduce students to the world of pool. While in college, Teris thought about becoming a professor at the university level, but ultimately decided against it. He loves teaching high school because he, “loves the age group…[and] gets to have fun with them.” Teris was inspired to go into teaching by his high school art teacher, Mr. Nicholas. Teris spent four years in high school taking different classes under Mr. Nicholas, including painting, calligraphy, and drawing (all of which he teaches now). “I just loved his classes…I just figured teaching was a good gig…It’s fun, and I get to make art with my students because I’m a ‘teaching artist’, I’m not really an ‘art teacher,’” he said. 

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Lake Arrowhead, Teris arrived at SBHS after teaching at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. Teris’ thesis for his masters in education at UCSB was on experiential learning, or, “learning by doing.” His research was on making student experiences fun, because, “when students are having fun or having a good time in class, they’re more likely to remember what you’re teaching or what they’re learning…I like to have fun and make kids laugh.” His students are no strangers to these ideals and have first hand experience of the sarcastic humor that Teris brings to each and every class.

Outside of the classroom, Teris enjoys urban sketching and exploring different mediums and styles like charcoal, painting, pencil, oil, watercolor, portrait, and landscape drawing. His artwork can be seen on his website, Teris’ favorite part about teaching at SBHS is, “the campus, my classroom, and the quad, getting to look at the beautiful Riviera…It’s just a beautiful campus with so much history and the students are amazing; they’re welcoming, they’re kind and warm. Santa Barbara’s beautiful, you can’t beat it.” Teris’ students have described the best part about his class as his ability to keep them engaged throughout the learning process, but the best part about teaching for Teris is learning from his students. “The best way to learn is by teaching others…As a teacher, I’m learning all the time from my students. I’m looking at what they’re doing, the amazing stuff they’re creating and…that’s inspiring.” He then adds, “That’s motivating me in my own artwork and to become a better artist and a better teacher. The best part of my job is working with students and learning from them…the things that they offer and bring to classes. That’s pretty incredible.” There is no hard part about teaching for Teris, and he says, “When you do something that you love, it’s pretty easy…I’ve pretty much reached my dreams: working on a beautiful campus and doing the job that I love.” 

Seeing his students put in hard work and effort and staying strong throughout the creative process has made teaching a fulfilling experience for Teris. A self described “class clown,” Teris attributes his popularity and success to his efforts to make his class a fun environment. The positive learning conditions can be seen throughout his classroom, where string lights and artwork cover every wall to welcome his students. The philosophy behind these values can be found in his favorite quote by Maya Angelou, which says, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you do, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Teris hopes to maintain his legacy at SBHS by making his students feel happy and welcomed. As his final message, Teris hopes that his students will know from his class that, “Hard work pays off. Do what you love and keep doing it even if you suck, even if you’re not the best. You will get better. Having a growth mindset will take you anywhere in life.”

Teris’ drawing of Stearns Wharf [Image Courtesy of Brandon Teris]


  • Mary Moses

    Mary Moses is a junior at Santa Barbara High School and has been a member of The Forge for three years. She also plays for the tennis team and enjoys reading, going to the beach, and spending time with friends in her free time.

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