A student exhibit honors the memory of a beloved art teacher
Although she passed away a year ago, Sarah Bennati still lives on in the hearts, minds – and brushes – of everyone she touched and is still much loved.
An art teacher at Stockbridge Valley Central School from grades 7-12, Sarah’s gift for seeing the art in everything and bringing it out has won her the admiration of her students.
“Sarah was hugely popular with students and respected by most,” said Stockbridge technology professor Patty Waldron. Sarah co-taught the art with Waldron, and the two became good friends.
“I knew Sarah well and we worked together for over 20 years. His room was two doors down from mine, and we had lunch every day with Erin Smith, our agriculture teacher,” Waldron continued. “We were part of a group of seven women who met outside of school throughout the year.”
Gene Bennati, Sarah’s father, said Sarah started working in advertising before deciding to move into teaching. “Sarah was always quiet, shy and low-key. She let everything she did, whatever the achievement, speak for itself,” he said. “She was not boastful .”
Sarah’s sister, Jackie Snizek, said Sarah was a kind, calm, thoughtful and quick-witted person. “She always had a funny remark or joke to make you smile,” Snizek said. “She connected with friends, family and students through her sense of humor.”
Stockbridge students would have Sarah as their middle school art teacher through high school, becoming a familiar and friendly face for students to turn to.
“Sarah has attended various sporting events to support teams and has helped design sets for performing arts productions,” Snizek said. “She was constantly talking about her students and always trying to help them. … When contests crossed her desk, she helped students enter them in hopes that they might win recognition or scholarships.
During the pandemic and teaching was moved to remote learning, Sarah wanted students to continue making art.
Her sister said she had an artistic mind that was constantly spinning with new ideas – a piece of barn wood became a background for an acrylic painting of a deer, broken glass became beautiful mosaics. Thus, some students could not afford the supplies, Sarah took matters into her own hands.
“She was helping them come up with creative ideas and using things from their homes to create projects,” Snizek said. “If they didn’t have orange, she asked them to use Cheetos dust for that color. Often she would buy art supplies and send them to a student.
Sarah died on September 22, 2021, aged 47 – just as the new school year had started.
His passing shocked and saddened those around him, with Stockbridge Valley Central School holding a candlelight vigil.
As former teachers, Bennati said he and his wife supported Sarah as she found her calling as a teacher early on and offered advice when they could. And even though he knew she was a successful teacher, he didn’t realize how much she was loved.
“When Sarah passed away, they held a candlelight vigil at the school. And the outpouring of support from the community was incredible,” Bennati said. the community, for the children, for his colleagues, for the administration and the parents.”
And more than that, students perpetuate her memory in their art, dedicated to her and her ability to see art in all things.
A special art exhibit is currently on display at the Sherrill-Kenwood Library, 543 Sherrill Road, by Studio Art, Photography and Year Seven Art classes – all core classes Sarah taught at Stockbridge Valley.
Additionally, some art students have followed an idea developed by Waldron and Sarah, making birdhouses inspired by works by famous artists that are also on display.
“Sarah understood that not all students liked art,” Snizek said. “However, she had the unique ability to convince them to see their creative potential in their own way. She could see the potential in the students that they lacked the confidence to develop.
“Seeing students have the confidence to create works of art is so touching,” she continued. “It’s incredibly moving to see the students making art and honoring Sarah. She enjoyed working at Stockbridge and touching the lives of students. It’s beautiful to see this rendered in his honor.
Bennati said that when Sarah called, there were a few students present who said they didn’t like the art, but they liked Sarah. And seeing the student art for her, Bennati couldn’t be prouder.
“April has always been her month at the Sherrill Library,” Bennati said.
Seeing all the artwork made for Sarah, Waldron always feels his friend’s presence at school.
“She may be gone, but she’s not forgotten,” Waldron said.