Jacqueline Chao
AP Art History teacher Liz Leavy

Liz Leavy is a familiar face on campus. She is the mother of freshman Nate and Isabelle, ‘17, a long-time parent volunteer for school events, like the textbook sale, and a substitute teacher since 2015.

Now Leavy will take on a new, completely different role: AP Art History teacher.

“I’m always (at school), so it’s nice to be paid for it!” Leavy said.

However, this role isn’t completely coming out of left field for Leavy. She was first drawn to the art history field after being forced into the AP class in high school. (Leavy had wanted to take AP Chemistry, but lack of interest canceled the course).

“I got stuck in art history, and it was just super cool,” Leavy said. “It’s history using art. It really deepens everything else you study. It ties in with history (and) literature because it’s the heart of any culture.

“It’s how people express themselves in a more creative and immediate way rather than some of the other ways that we look at history that are more clear, thought-out and very much the way people want to present themselves.”

In fact, she went on to double major in art history and theater at Wesleyan University and earned a master’s degree in the history of art at University of California, Berkeley.

Leavy taught art history at Sonoma State University, University of San Diego and Berkeley, before she stopped to raise her children full time 15 years ago.

“I’ve thought about (teaching again) every so often and always came up with really good reasons why it was not the right thing to do,” Leavy said. “But since (the position opened) so suddenly, it just seemed like kismet (fate). Here’s this bizarre last-minute job and here’s an unemployed art history teacher, so it just had to be!”

Only a couple weeks before school started, Leavy learned that the position for AP Art History teacher had opened up and that the school needed a teacher pronto. Consequently, Leavy didn’t have much time to plan her class or even consult former art history teacher Ron Bell, but she was able to speak to some former art history students, who advised her to vary her lessons and “keep it peppy.” Leavy said she also didn’t have to panic too much because the College Board already has a set curriculum available for teachers.

Because her class is an AP, Leavy said that it will be very structured and fundamentally geared toward getting students ready for the exam. Unlike previous AP Art History exams, for which students would be required to study thousands of pieces, the current exam is centered on 250 objects that now include performance art and more non-Western art from around the world and throughout history.

Along with these 250 objects, Leavy said that she will also emphasize topics that she personally finds fascinating, such as Roman art and architecture, Medieval art and Colonial American art. She also plans to take her students to the Crocker Art Museum, set up a joint art project with the Studio Art class and bring in some of her own rarities from home. Leavy said that she owns a manuscript page of the Bible from the 14th century and wants to surprise her students with her other belongings.

While Leavy’s college lecture classes averaged about 70 students, only juniors Grace Naify, Sophie Naylor and Luca Procida and senior Crystal Jiang make up her current class. But she said she is not disheartened by the size since her students are much more alert and active than college students.

“It’s fantastic!” Leavy said. “I’ve got some brave souls who are taking a gamble with me! It’s going to be very collaborative, which is nice because we’re all in this together.”

—By Sonja Hansen

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