Meet a Golden Apple Finalist from Taft High School
SCHOOLS | March 28, 2022
Meet a Golden Apple Finalist from Taft High School

As an art teacher, Ms. Jennifer Trejo has worked on many meaningful projects with her students at Taft High School over the years, but one that stands out to her involves a partnership with the Memory Project, a non-profit organization that allows art students to create portraits for youth in other parts of the world. 

“This project was a way of connecting my students with kids who might be in war-torn places or are orphans or have had something really major happen to them,” she said. “It expanded their perspectives, and it was really rewarding and satisfying to create and then give away artwork to someone in the world that you may not ever meet.” 

Growing up in Chicago and in CPS schools, Ms. Trejo explains that becoming a teacher was always near the top of her list of potential careers. Beyond her experiences in the classroom, she was especially motivated to pursue art education through the programs she participated in as a teenager at Gallery 37

“At Gallery 37, it really felt nice to be supported by people who weren’t necessarily from my direct school,” she said. “I had mentors who thought so highly of me despite not knowing me that well, and that motivated me to work harder, and, without even realizing it, I grew so much.” 

Ms. Trejo has made it a priority to make sure that Taft students feel like the spaces within the school have been designed by them, for them. She’s known for taking on large scale murals and other projects with her students to create a more welcoming environment and culture for the entire Taft community. 

She believes these projects, which center on collaboration, are a welcome change from the rigidity of a bell schedule. In her art classes, especially those for more advanced students, students tend to work independently on self-guided projects, and she is present to provide guidance and support. Thus, she is constantly soliciting student feedback on everything from how they prefer turning things in to how and when critiques are scheduled. 

“It’s important to read between the lines when your students are talking to you, but don’t make assumptions, because you’re almost always wrong,” she said. “Listening to your students is crucial because the connections you form with them are the most important part of the job and make teaching extremely fulfilling.” 

Ultimately, whether her students go on to pursue art as a career or not, Ms. Trejo believes that there are several universal skills that she hopes they come away with after having her as a teacher.

“I hope my students learn to trust their vision and be creative problem solvers in whatever field they find themselves in,” she said. “When you have an idea, a lot of times being successful comes from simply visualizing it and starting to make it one way or another.” 

Ms. Trejo is one of the District’s 13 finalists for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. She says that she is extremely humbled by the honor and is also very appreciative that someone took the time to nominate her.