Inspired and Inspiring Faculty: Charla Gaglio, Chair of Visual Arts & Arts/Humanities Teacher

by: Laina Bennett Coburn, Director of Philanthropic Giving
One of Shorecrest's greatest assets is our faculty. Educators at Shorecrest prepare students to become responsible, active global citizens. Our dedicated teachers create extraordinary experiences in the classroom each and every day. It is these experiences that make Shorecrest a special place. 

We asked Upper School faculty member Charla Gaglio to reveal a little about herself and the subjects she teaches. Mrs. Gaglio has been teaching in the Upper School Arts & Humanities Department at Shorecrest since 2000. She holds a bachelor's degree in Fine Art from Colorado College, a Master of Fine Arts in Fibers from Colorado State University, and a Master of Education in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Charla is the Chair of the Visual Arts Department at Shorecrest and teaches classes for drawing & painting, photography, humanities, AP Art History and Intro to Women’s Studies.

How is it that you came to work at Shorecrest?

I actually came to work at Shorecrest because of Janet Root H’16. I had been offered a job in Boston, but I got a call that was Janet saying she wanted to get together and interview me. She really sold me on her vision for the school. I think that’s one of the things that’s been so interesting to me, having been here now 20 years, is having been able to see her vision realized—most of it while she was still with us. She had very high expectations and a very clear idea of what she thought art should be. She never liked the idea of people saying, “Well, they’re just high school kids so it’s good enough.” To her, it was never good enough. Janet wanted students to strive for better, and I liked and admired that. That has been my goal — during her lifetime, meet her standards — and in her passing, maintain them. 

Describe your approach to teaching Upper School visual arts students.

In my arts classes I want students to feel safe and comfortable and know they are cared about. You can’t be expressive if you’re worried about harsh judgement or are fearful of failure. From their first day of class with me, students learn that when I’m talking about their artwork, I'm talking about their work—not them personally. I’m not doing them any service if I’m just cheerleading and not helping them get better at producing quality products and work. I also want students to understand that art is a discipline. It has required skill sets and is to be respected like any other profession. 

Why do you think art literacy is important for all students?

It’s so important to be exposed to and understand the arts because they celebrate the best of what we are as human beings. I used to tease a colleague who taught European history by saying, “You always just talk about battles, kings and death. I get to talk about what we create and view history through the lens of the best of what humans can be.”

That’s why it's so important for our students. It's a form of communication, it's how you get ideas out there, and how you show the world your passion. 

What’s something not many people know about the arts at Shorecrest?

The school policy has been that, in addition to their work as educators, teachers in the arts department must be practicing artists. We show our work, perform, sell, and are still in the business so that we understand what we are expecting from our students each day. 

This is important because it is easy to fall behind an academic wall and forget what you're really asking of your students. If you’re still engaged in that struggle, and they see that, then that helps them understand that art is a constant process. We all work to be better and hone our craft. 

How does philanthropic support from the community impact your work in the classroom?

I have a unique perspective on this because I taught in public schools early in my career. I know what it is to count pencils and erasers and worry about having enough paper for the 40 kids in my class. The thing that always has amazed me being here at Shorecrest is the generosity of the budget. Because of support each year for the Shorecrest Fund, I am able to have everything I need. It gives us the leeway to personalize the experience for our students. That's why that generosity is so helpful. I always tell my students, “We don't do hand turkeys here.” In other words, my assignments are designed to get different kinds of work from each student, so it becomes a very one-on-one process — as opposed to everyone being in lockstep with one another working on the exact same thing.

Our fourth Giving Day is on Thursday, March 18, celebrating Shorecrest Visual and Performing Arts.
Dr. Allen Root, husband to former Arts and Humanities Chair and Lifetime Trustee, Janet Root H’16, has committed to donating $50,000 to the Shorecrest Fund with the hope that it inspires 100 other families passionate about the Visual & Performing Arts at Shorecrest to join him.

To learn more visit https://www.givecampus.com/kyzdk6

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.