Final touches on fruitful career

After two decades of teaching, art teacher Tina Prates has seen Branham through its artistic growth


Fitz Vo

Art teacher Tina Prates guides a student through her sketching. In her two decades at Branham, Prates has introduced AP Art to the curriculum.

Renee Owens, News Editor

Art department chair Cristina Prates will retire in June after 20 years of teaching at Branham. Prates has seen and facilitated many changes on campus in her time here, but she feels that in a way, nothing has changed.

“It’s still the same as far as I’m concerned.” Prates said. “It still has a real genuine sweetness to it. In my little world, in the art world, people are really kind and gentle, and it’s a caring campus for staff and with students.”

Originally, Prates did not plan on becoming a teacher. She planned to go into fine arts to exhibit her art or into art therapy. She was an art gallery store manager for some time as well. However, she was hired to be a middle school art teacher in Canada, where she taught for 10 years. When her husband was relocated to California, Prates moved here and started teaching at the high school level. She was the only art teacher at Branham when she started here.

“The department definitely has grown, for sure, in 15 years. We have a more diverse department,” art teacher Eileen Bertron said, referring to the growth of students enrolled in arts classes and the addition of a photo class to the department. “The department chairs really have an impact on that.”

One key change spearheaded by Prates was the introduction of AP classes to the art department at Branham. Over her time of teaching, Prates has seen art education shift to a more academic focus.

“When I was a student, I was just learning how to shade, and then I had to teach people how to shade. It’s gotten a lot broader,” Prates
said. “Our goals are much more broad as teachers.”

Prates sees these changes as a positive shift towards the future. While she sees that there are problems with appropriating art, having an information overload and isolating people as technology becomes more prevalent, Prates also finds that technology opens new doors for artists that were previously closed. She uses these changes to teach her students to succeed.

“I definitely want to have a future in art,” longtime Prates student Ariana Renteria said. “She’s showed me a bunch of new, different ways that art can be used and different ways people in general use art.”

To Prates, promoting students’ art is the best way to advance the arts on campus. In her time here, she has worked to showcase students’ art by displaying it as much as she can.

“I appreciate the fact that she makes an effort to get the art out around campus,” Principal Cheryl Lawton said. “She always comes and puts things in the office, and she started putting the murals up on the walls to try and add some color and life [to campus].”

Having spent two decades at Branham, Prates describes feeling “terrified” about moving onto retirement because Branham feels like a second home to her.

“It’s a terrific place to work. I love every day,” Prates said.

However, Prates is also feeling excited for this next chapter. She plans on spending more time with her husband and her family who remained in Canada.

“We’ve saved up enough to now graduate [this phase of life] and start our life together again, because we’ve been working so hard for so many years,” Prates said, regarding retiring with her husband.

Ultimately, Prates is excited about having the time to explore her passion for art, which has been important to her since a young age.

“That’s where I started my life, and I’m going to go back to thinking about what it means to be human and what I can do with my art, if I can do anything positive,” she said.