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.
What do you love about SJEDS?
Most of all, I love the children. They are so creative and are always excited about what new projects we are doing.
How long have you been teaching at SJEDS and what motivated you to become a teacher here?
29 years. My parents were both educators so it is in my blood. I always loved art and now I get to share that love with my students. My prayer is that they always have fun in my class and go away with knowledge they don’t even realize they have learned.
What is your favorite tradition at SJEDS?
I love flag raising. It gives the community a chance to see how we much we value our heritage and our country. I also love chapel. I am fortunate enough to help with communion. It is so wonderful to look into those precious kids faces as they take communion. Also father Britt is a real gift to our students. The students soak up his lessons like they are sponges. It is amazing how much they learn.
What is a unique experience, talent or interest that you bring to your classroom to help shape the learning experience of your students?
I have always loved art and I learn something new every time I teach a lesson. I hope I can transfer this to my students.
How do you nurture and challenge your students through mind, body and spirit?
In my classroom we are all equals. It is always amazing to me that my students encourage each other and complement each other on their creations. Acceptance and consideration for others feelings are very important in my classroom.
Please provide any additional information you would like to share.
Both my children went through sjeds and graduated from our school. Lon is a sales rep. for Lincoln financial and Courtney is an interior designer with Schulte Design. I have 2 grandsons Declan 2 1/2 and Davis 7 months.