Top 15

Ben Stanton

Position: Art Teacher

School: Ralph Bunche Elementary School

School District: Compton Unified School District

City, State: Carson, California

About the Nominee: Ben Stanton was nominated by a friend, Marie Cammack. For many students in Compton Unified School District, Mr. Stanton's art class is usually the first art class they've been offered. This art class, however, teaches much more than just artistic techniques. Mr. Stanton has created a nurturing atmosphere for expression and has made a lasting impact in the lives of his students. In the words of one of his students: “You have given us hope to turn our goals into actions. Therefore, you are helping us discover ourselves and our hidden abilities. Moreover, I have now developed confidence within myself, and I’m trying to become a difference maker, so I may give others the opportunity that Mr. Stanton offered Compton Unified School District.”

Mr. Stanton has displayed leadership at the school and district level in the implementation of six main initiatives:

1) grassroots fundraising to fund his school's art studio 2) partnering with non-profits and corporations to create unique art projects for the students 3) promoting student philanthropy and charity involvement 4) partnering with museums for educational field trip opportunities 5) developing Circle Painting Mural Projects to promote team-building for faculty, students and the community 6) bringing in local and international artists as guest speakers in the classroom to provide a diverse learning experience.

Mr. Stanton teaches nine classes at two different schools. The classes are 100 percent funded through grassroots fundraising and community support. When there weren’t funds available, Mr. Stanton spent money out of his own pocket to buy supplies. This curriculum wouldn’t be available to the students if it weren’t for his fundraising efforts.

Mr. Stanton has also partnered with non-profits and corporations to create meaningful art experiences for his students. He partnered with Bridge to Skate, a non-profit that builds skate parks in undeveloped countries. Together, they created the Compton Plywood Project, where used skateboard decks were donated for the students to paint with their own custom artwork. Then, Mr. Stanton solicited corporations such as Vans, Jack’s Surf Shop, and Active to sponsor prizes for an art show where the students’ skateboards were displayed and sold. This project also tied to the student philanthropy initiative; the students donated a portion of the proceeds to charities of their choosing.

In another project, Mr. Stanton partnered with Shuzz, a non-profit that brings water, medical supplies and shoes to impoverished countries like Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba. Shuzz sponsored an art contest where the students designed a shoe, and the winner’s design was published nationally. In a new opportunity, he is partnering with the Brown Paper Bag Project, a non-profit that provides sack lunches to the homeless in LA. Mr. Stanton’s students will be decorating the paper bags with motivational messages and custom artwork.

He has also worked diligently to fund unique field trips and learning experiences for the students. Mr. Stanton is one of only 25 teachers in the Los Angeles area to have a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Broad. This allows his students to go on field trips to the museums and continue the classroom curriculum in a setting where they can discuss, critique and interpret art on display. If it weren’t for his individual efforts to secure the donations for the field trips, the students would not be able to have these meaningful experiences.

Mr. Stanton also spearheaded a Circle Painting project on campus. This team-building event with faculty, students and the community created a collaborative experience with social and artistic values. The project fostered group interaction, inspired community involvement and produced 3 murals that reflected the school’s core values.

Mr. Stanton has also invited local and international artists to speak to the students in his classroom to teach them new artistic methods. He exposes his students to a diverse spectrum of art, whether it be a clothing designer discussing branding, a woodworking artisan bringing wood shop activities to the classroom, or instruction on woodcarving by a Jamaican artist via Skype.

Mr. Stanton is making an impact on the lives he touches through his teaching. Through his commitment to creating a nurturing atmosphere and an environment for expression, students have been able to cope with personal struggles outside of the classroom. One student even stayed after class to tell Mr. Stanton that his art class had saved their life by helping them find ways to express themselves, build confidence and find a purpose to continue. Mr. Stanton is a LifeChanger, but as much as he has made an impact on his students’ lives, they have also been a positive force in his life during difficult times. One does not need to guess whether he has made a beneficial difference - the students' own words express how he has been a LifeChanger in their lives and in the community.