Jess Bastidas - Upper School Visual Arts Teacher - About - McDonogh School

Jess Bastidas, Upper School Visual Arts Teacher

Photographer: Ari Bershak ’25

What inspired you to pursue a career in teaching? 

An early inspiration was my high school art teacher Mr. Brinker. He instilled in me a lifelong appreciation for learning and creating, emphasizing the importance of daily practice, the artistic process, discipline, intrinsic motivation, honest self-assessment, and authenticity. Many of the foundations of my teaching practice are rooted in the systems I learned from him during my four years at the Lehigh Valley Performing Arts School in Bethlehem, PA. Through vision journals, artist matrices, procedural sketches, mid-point evaluations, and revisions, Mr. Brinker helped his students develop their unique artistic practices. I still refer to my high school sketchbooks, which are over a decade old, as examples of the importance of process, reflection, and revision when teaching my current students. I'm not particularly sentimental, but I've kept these sketchbooks because I recognize the impact of Mr. Brinker’s instruction on my decision to become an artist and art educator. He instilled in me the belief that anyone can be taught to be an artist. 

I enjoy teaching almost as much as creating art—sometimes even more, depending on the day. 

What do you hope students will take away from your classes or your mentorship? 

I hope that my students will choose paths that are not easy but that are personally fulfilling. I want each student to have the passion and discipline to work through challenges and to understand that creation is an iterative process. Simultaneously frustrating, boring, illuminating, and exhilarating, the creative process involves sacrifice and hard work. I want each person to recognize their role in supporting a larger community that is constructively critical, values civil discourse, and works towards greater empathy and inclusivity. I hope they'll tell their stories, share their experiences, and connect to and uplift one another.

Do you have a favorite place on campus? What makes it your favorite? 

Honestly, the art rooms, the art students, and my art colleagues are pretty awesome! My other favorite spot on campus is the circle in the woods around the dead woodpecker tree stump. Last year, I would take my seniors there once a month to share, reflect, and sketch. Personally, I really value the quiet, solitude, and peacefulness of that space and the opportunity to connect with the students in a different way.