Saratoga art teacher retiring after 35 years: ‘It has been such a gift’

Monica Gabehart has maintained her childhood passion for art and teaching it to kids

Monica Gabehart, art teacher at Saratoga. Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Morris.

Monica Gabehart uses her creative talents to introduce her students to the world of art.

Gabehart, who was raised by two teachers, didn’t see her herself following in her parents footsteps right away.

“I didn’t want to do what my parents were doing,” Gabehart said. “I was rebelling trying to be my own person. But, in the end it was a perfect fit – kids and art, a perfect combination.”

Although she attempted to rebel against teaching as a young adult, as a child it seemed as if the job was made for her. She was constantly playing school with her brother and the one day she missed school she felt as if the sky had fallen, she said.

Monica Gabehart, art teacher at Saratoga. Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Morris.

“In kindergarten or first grade I went home sick and I missed painting. I was so upset,” Gabehart said. “I mean, they painted that day and I missed it. Yeah, I don’t think I ever went home sick again, because I didn’t want to miss anything. I get sick, I miss painting. I was dramatic.”

Gabehart has maintained the passion for art she had as a child and showers her students with creative outlets. She changes her classroom decor every year to a different theme. This year it is under the sea.

“Mrs. Gabehart spent countless hours preparing her room with a whimsical and colorful theme awaiting the start of the school year, gathering up the incredible works of art by students throughout the school year and meticulously developing an art gallery throughout the halls of Saratoga,” according to her 2021-22 school year book dedication.

During the pandemic, Gabehart found creative ways for her students to maintain an artistic outlet. Drawing together via Zoom became her students’ new normal.

“The pandemic was hard, we were so closed off,” Gabehart said. “The beginning of the first year it was hard, we were all struggling to figure out how to do it and how to maintain a connection. To maintain a sense of normal, I started class the same way I always did – drawing together. I think that helped them know the world was still normal in some small way.”

Throughout the pandemic, she utilized her skills to ensure each student is able to maintain a creative outlet in the face of adversity.

Monica Gabehart, art teacher at Saratoga. Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Morris.

“Art is completely personal, no one has to know or understand what you are doing, because it is emotionally entangled within themselves,” Gabehart said. “So, they are able to express themselves and find a creative outlet in a good way. I feel so sad when people don’t see the benefit and how good it can be.”

She hopes her students gained confidence in her classroom and to try new things.

“They don’t realize how gifted they are sometimes and I hope when people see their stuff they tell them because they deserve to know,” Gabeheart said. “When I look back and think about how many children I have had a chance to share something special with. What an opportunity. It has been such a gift.”