Deanna Sortino: Designing the Perfect Classroom

Deanna+Sortino%27s+professional+picture.

Deanna Sortino's professional picture.

By Gloria Kosir, Features Editor

To many students throughout West, Deanna Sortino is more than just a teacher- she’s a friend, an ally, and now Secondary Art Teacher of the Year. Sortino was selected by the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) after they noticed her diligence in and outside of the classroom.

“You know how you feel when you win a raffle prize…like excited, shocked, super pumped…that’s how I felt! I was incredibly honored to have even been nominated, so winning was truly the icing on the cake,” Sortino said. She teaches the digital art classes at West to dozens of students each year, and each one has said amazing things about her.

“Since freshman year, Ms. Sortino has not only stood out to me as an amazing and hardworking teacher, but also a role model. No matter how busy she is, and she is very busy running a handful of other clubs, Ms. Sortino will always go out of her way to help me and my classmates,” senior Anna Maris said. Maris has been taking art classes with Sortino for the past three years, and is looking forward for the rest of this year.

“She is the most caring teacher I’ve ever had. She listens to our ideas and gives us good feedback about our work. During remote learning, she also has been doing the most to get students the supplies they need,” junior Jessica Palmer said.

Sortino has two goals when teaching- to make sure her students understand and excel in her art classes, and to be a positive influence on them. “I want them to know how much I care about them and how proud I am of each and every one of them. I want my students to know that I see them and I want them to succeed,” Sortino said.

“Ms. Sortino motivates me to push myself and explore new techniques out of my comfort zone. Not only has my passion for art grown, but as a senior this year, I plan on continuing to study design in college,” Maris said.

She also hopes to get her students as many college art scholarships as possible. According to her, so far her students have received a total of over $8.4 million dollars in scholarships.

Art has paved the way for Sortino since she was a young girl. She was only eight when her father lost his battle against cancer, and her mom needed to drop her off at school an hour early every day in order to make it to work. “The only place that was opened that early at school was the art room. I would spend every morning in the art room painting or coloring to help me deal with my grief, and my art teacher was beyond kind and compassionate to me during that time. She always told me how talented I was and always made me feel special. That experience when I was a kid made me want to be a teacher. Having a sanctuary at school was so important to me and something I strive to give my students,” Sortino said.

Now as a teacher, Sortino has been able to transform her room into a safe haven for every student. “You’ll always see my room opened early in the morning so that kids know they also have a sanctuary in my classroom as well. I want to pay back what was so beautifully gifted to me as a kid,” Sortino said.

Being a teacher has been an amazing and rewarding experience for Sortino. She’s learned so much from her students at West.

“They are knowledgeable, they are passionate about making the world a better place, and they have a voice,” Sortino said.

All of these great things about her students that she’s learned has only increased her love for teaching. To Sortino, the best part about being a teacher is the students.

“I love seeing the passion in the students, how creative they are, and the countless solutions to any project I assign. I relish in my students’ successes and feel like each student is seriously my own kid,” Sortino said.