Brent Bludworth began his 20th year of teaching this fall. He is in his ninth year at Lake Worth High School in Palm Beach County, Fla. He also is MyMajor’s Creative Outlook Magazine’s 2014 Art Teacher of the Year. He was nominated by 2014 graduate Annalisa Spreadborough, whose portrait of Bludworth took second in the Creative Outlook cover contest.
Her nomination touched the panel of judges who selected Bludworth. Here is what she wrote: “Mr. Bludworth is the reason I made it through high school, without him and his classroom I would have failed out or stopped coming altogether. Aside from being an amazing art teacher he is an amazing person who cares deeply for his students and will try to help them any way he can. He always managed to talk me into a good mood and pushed me to do my best. I’ve never met anyone like him and I don’t think it’s likely I ever will. He has the ability to go easy on his students but still expect the best out of them. …
“Even though I have spent four years as his student and we have become close he manages to uphold a professional boundary which I find extremely important in teachers. He impacted my life by believing in me (and all his students) and he always told me his honest opinion. He felt that my being a student artist didn’t mean that I should not expect a professional quality from my artwork. His expectation of this led to one of my art pieces being selected into a professional art gallery. I sincerely hope he wins this since he has dedicated around ten years to his students and has inevitably affected many others of his students in a similar manner.”
This year, Bludworth teaches two classes of photography, three of Art2D and on AP/Portfolio Art2D. In previous years, he taught 3D, Yearbook and Graphics. Before Lake Worth High School, he taught at an elementary school and 10 years in middle school. His Bachelor in Fine Arts in drawing comes from the University of Florida. “I came into teaching after a career as a graphic artist. I subbed for a year and found I loved it,” he explains. “My mom was an art teacher and nominated often for art teacher of the year.” Laughing, he says, “She was a little like the Susan Lucci of the art teacher world, often nominated, but never won.”
That sense of humor aids him. “When I was teaching middle school, the students believed just about anything you said,” Bludworth shares. “Stepping into high school was so different. My first year was really tough. It was just the opposite of middle school. Sometimes I could hear the crickets chirping when I tried to engage them or if I tried to be humorous.”
Finally Bludworth’s funny bone proved too much. “I’m a goofball and a coach. Those qualities finally came out and the kids learned that I treat them all the same … differently. I get to know my students on a personal level. They know my kids and my own father comes in often. I’m someone they trust and I don’t take that lightly.”
Bludworth finds “art-pportunities” for his students. “These are art contests with opportunities. This could be a contest for a monetary prize or for fame. The kids are often part of exhibitions at the Norton Museum of Art, one of Florida’s leading institutions. Pieces in the museum include those by Monet and Picasso. It’s pretty awe-inspiring for my students to know their work hangs in the same place as a Picasso.”
He says one of his key strengths is his ability to “Motivate students!” “I know that not all my students will make art their career. I want them to see that art can be a means to express their emotions. Art can help heal or express happiness. I never discourage a student. Some come in for their art electives while others want to study art in college. Either way, art is being appreciated.”
Bludworth’s enthusiasm is contagious. “That’s my other key to motivation. If the students see me enjoying what I do, it helps them join in. I’m an early morning person so I am at school around 6 a.m. and the day ends around 2:30. It’s a full day.” He also serves as advisor for the National Art Honor Society. The group meets every Wednesday morning. They perform community service at the street painting festival, painting murals, creating logos and collateral and aiding a group of elderly seniors with their yard sale and painting murals. “They give us some of the proceeds to help out the art department,” he says.
His mother taught and would bring home projects for the family to work on. “However it wasn’t until I went to high school and took my first portfolio class. I never thought of art as a career until then.” His father was state attorney and he could have gone into law.
“I find it refreshing to teach art,” Bludworth says. “I couldn’t image teaching some of the core classes. I am an artist who gets to share this love. I’m a very lucky person. It’s almost like play and I get paid for it. It’s an occupation that is a blessing. My kids see me drawing and being creative. They join alongside and we find happiness.”