The Art of Teaching


Art by Mr. Bermel

You may have heard your teachers describe teaching as an art— an act not simply defined by one method, one way. We have interviewed several teachers at Hills with artistic passions to better understand their work and how it affects them as educators. Ms. Brice, Ms. Bauer, and Mr. Bermel joined us for a discussion. 

Drawing a Heartwarming Story

Ms. Brice, a first-year art teacher at Morris Hills and Morris Knolls, is writing a graphic novel about her family’s experience after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The deadly earthquake devastated the nation, killing over a quarter million people, destroying the nation’s infrastructure, and leaving millions of people homeless. 

Growing up in America as a Haitian-American, Ms. Brice saw the country that much of her family lives in undergo a catastrophe. A place so special to her and her family transformed into rubble.  Her extended family were among the people who suffered greatly from the earthquake. Like many 14-year-olds, Ms. Brice could not imagine the severity of the situation until her cousins who she did not know too well, suddenly moved to New Jersey from Haiti to live with her and her family. “Can you imagine who you were at 14?” she questioned, to reinforce her initial shock to the event that transformed her whole house. 

Her novel describes her experiences growing up with her cousins and learning to adjust to the American lifestyle. She described it to be a “jarring” circumstance where she would have to adapt to her new life and grow from each lesson. Her novel is both a mix of serious and funny, highlighting the ups and downs of her journey. 

Studying art and graphic design in college, Ms. Brice has a passion and incredible talent for cartooning and drawing. Publishers saw her talent and reached out to her requesting for her to create a graphic novel about a topic that she is passionate about. After creating a rough draft, she underwent the nerve-wracking ordeal of having her novel picked by a publisher. When she got an offer from Random House Graphics, it was truly a significant moment in her career. Now, Ms. Brice is awaiting final edits to her novel, anticipating it being published in 2026. In the meantime, Ms. Brice continues to share her love for art and cartooning and animation with her students. 

Crafting and ReCrafting

Ms. Bauer, the GT teacher at both Knolls and Hills, has a goal of completing a mostly handmade wardrobe. Her artistic endeavors include sewing, knitting, mending and repairing, and upcycling. Growing up, Ms. Bauer’s parents were craftspeople. She never felt particularly passionate about using her hands, as most teens stray far from their parent’s interests. It wasn’t until she was “peer-pressured” by Dr. Zoeller to join a Crochet for Stress Relief program, as she jokingly describes, she rediscovered her ability and love for the craft. 

For new crafters, Ms. Bauer honestly remarks that “it is never relaxing to learn a new skill.” The relaxing part does not come until you learn the basics. She recommends new knitters and crocheters to start with a hat or cowl. As she teaches the students she mentors in the Hills knitting club, String Theory, repetitively creating small, fast projects is the best way to build skill and excitement for the next craft. 

Outside of teaching, Ms. Bauer has taught stitching classes where she has shared her passion for “visible mending.” This is a skill in which you draw attention to the holes being fixed in clothing, making it a decorative element. Not only does this give the clothing a new personality, but it keeps it out of landfill. Bauer is an advocate for sustainable fashion as the clothing industry produces vast amounts of waste. As she explains, “The most sustainable clothes you own are your own, so make the most out of them.”

Bauer believes that working with our hands should be an essential part of education, as students with tactile sensitivity have stronger emotional sensitivity, a characteristic much needed in today’s society. With quality materials and expert teachers, students can grow into strong tactile learners. Bauer celebrates classes like woodshop and prop shop as students are in a setting in which they need to pay attention, helping them tune into their work and their own mind. 

Ms. Bauer has found that the fiber arts community is extremely uplifting and supportive. On Instagram, she draws inspiration from fellow crafters and exchanges likes. Bauer shared that throughout the years, the fiber arts community has grown to emphasize the idea that knitting is for everyone, regardless of their identity and background. “It’s not just for old ladies anymore,” she shared, laughing. 

Painting by Numbers

Mr. Bermel’s Calculus students are privy to his vivid illustrations and watercolor paintings, as posted on his website, Although he spends a great deal of his time teaching calculus and algebra to Hills students, he has always been passionate about art since he was a child. As a young student, he could not wait to come home and paint, a passion supported by his parents.

Mr. Bermel enjoys drawing people the most, capturing their fashion with expressive lines and dramatic poses. “Everyone has a story,” he stated. “I am telling the story of how I view people, their goodness and beauty.” In a past series, Mr. Bermel challenged himself to draw 40 people in 50 days. He timed himself to draw his model, who was usually a Hills teacher, with markers within two minutes. It was only after the person was sketched out that he would add lively colors. He is currently working on a new series in which he creates an impressionistic scene, possibly with patel and paint overlay, without a photo reference. He wants to capture people in a particular environment, like a mall. 

Although Mr. Bermel has never formally taken a university art course, he had some experience in his university’s watercolor studio. He asked the professor of the course to allow him to periodically visit due to his cluttered schedule, and he agreed. The same professor brought Bermel on a memorable trip to Italy, during which he recalls painting with the locals in Sicily.

Math and art are two subjects that one may never imagine going hand-in-hand. Mr. Bermel somewhat agrees. “I don’t want to muddy my art with math,” he shared, as he conversely sees art in math. “I can handle difficult equations because of creativity,” he said. “The mathematical concept of the golden ratio in itself is aesthetically pleasing.  It’s all art.”

Teaching is not a science to the math teacher, it is an art. Much like his art, Mr. Bermel must read people and circumstances to be a better teacher. “Art influences my lens,” he opined. “The more art I do, the more everything seems like a painting.”