Known for her sense of style and sophisticated southern drawl, Judy Bryan has taught art studio to hundreds of students during her 29 years at SJEDS, weaving art history, classical music, literature and self-awareness into the elements of art and design.
Judy’s talent and patience extend way beyond what she gives our children. There are hundreds of hand-made nativity sets, baked in her kiln, that are carefully unwrapped every Christmas and displayed with sentimental pride. Countless masterpieces of oil pastel flowers, painted replicas of Monet’s Woman with a Parasol and pop art renditions of the Statue of Liberty hang in homes and offices. Every parent is excited to see the contents of “the big white portfolio” that comes home at the end of the year.
When you walk into Judy’s classroom and the children are working on their self-portrait, looking into a mirror with a calming backdrop of classical music, they are not just learning about human facial proportions. They are looking deep within themselves and learning about those special talents they possess outside of the classroom.
For Judy, the most rewarding thing is watching the children create. “Especially the ones that struggle in the classroom, those are the ones who always SHINE,” she said. “Without the time constraints and being able to focus in a different way, they are able to achieve things that they love. They really open up and realize their God-given talents. The greatest gift of all is when a child realizes that they CAN do something.”
Judy has a devout sense of why she does what she does: she loves her students and watching them grow into what God has intended them to be. “Even the little ‘ringers’, the ones that act up in class, when I look down at their little faces during communion it just brings me to tears,” she said of her weekly chalice duty during chapel.
Although she said there are many students that stand out in her memory, one in particular holds a special place in her heart. When Judy was undergoing treatment for breast cancer back in 2001, Christy Kernan was a fifth grader in her class who had just undergone treatment for a brain tumor. “Christy was such an inspiration to me. She was always sweet and caring, and showed such a concern for me and what I was going through when I lost my hair,” said Judy. Sadly, Christy passed away a few years later. Her picture still hangs in Judy’s classroom.
Originally a sociology major, Judy quickly learned she was much more interested in fashion and design. “I love all kinds of creative stuff,” she explained about her dabbles in interior decorating and floral arrangement. In fact, the beautiful floral arrangements you’ve seen at past year galas have been created—and donated—by Judy.
Outside of school, she has co-chaired the American Cancer Society’s fashion show fundraiser and the Cowford Ball, and enjoys her book club of 15 years, which consists of a group of long-time friends that met as parents at SJEDS. She is also an active member of San Jose Episcopal Church.
She has two children, both of whom attended SJEDS—a son, Lon, and daughter, Courtney, who is married with two boys and who is (as Judy claims) the only student she ever sent to the office.