2016 Arts Educator of the Year Randy Kupcha

You don’t even have to enter the building to see and feel Mr. Kupcha’s impact on Branchburg Central Middle School. Visitors to our school are greeted by a 100-foot mural on the front of the building inspired by Keith Haring’s work that he designed with students and supervised its creation. In December 2015, another group of students designed and constructed a 60-foot-long bamboo and copper sculpture in one of the school’s courtyards that adds visual and audio art to the school. For over 40 years, Mr. Kupcha has been an outstanding art teacher in the Branchburg community. He has been successful in encouraging, guiding, and supporting our students to embrace a love of art and to be recognized for their successes in the field not only while in his classroom but long after in the community and world of art.

Mr. Kupcha’s artistic skills are clearly visible to anyone who enters his classroom. His love for art is visible in the work that he does each day with our students. His ability to transfer his knowledge of art to our students is a gift he shares on a daily basis. Whether in the specific directions to a student on how to achieve the shading needed on a particular piece or instruction to a whole class on scale and proportion, Mr. Kupcha possesses a unique talent to make anyone a better artist.

Through his efforts, artistically motivated students also have a unique option to explore specialized areas of art through our Interest Cluster program. This program allows students who are passionate about art an additional two periods per week to pursue independent study projects that go above and beyond the typical classroom material. Mr. Kupcha mentors each student in choosing, sourcing materials, and executing these projects allowing them opportunities not traditionally seen in our middle school art room including glass fusion, large-scale plaster sculpture, wall murals, and enormous acrylic canvases that allow developing artists to test their limits and explore new materials. This “Advanced Art” cluster is an opportunity that he has developed into something truly special by dedicating time, resources, and talent to help students develop their full potential.

Mr. Kupcha has made it a point to get our students and their artwork recognized. Whether through local displays at town hall, the CCA Youth Art show, and other shows he learns about, or through his support and participation in the Somerset County Teen Arts Festival each year, our students' work is displayed for the student, their parents and our district to view and be proud of. Mr. Kupcha has also been an advocate for the entire Teen Arts program, making sure our faculty is aware of all the opportunities available and encouraging them to find students with musical, writing or performing arts talents to present at the festival. These opportunities have an impact far beyond the classroom.

Encouraging students to hang their works of art in the school hallways for others to view gives students who may not have chosen to show their work otherwise acknowledgment and praise from their friends, the faculty, and administration for a job well done.  Every quarter new, stunning, and vibrant works of art decorate the halls of our building in an ever-evolving rotation as the year progresses and every year students develop into enthusiastic and excited artists and, potential art teachers. Mr. Kupcha is willing to give up his own personal time to allow students to continue to explore their love of art. By 7:15 each morning, five to more than fifteen artists can be found in his room working on independent projects, then during his lunch or prep period, he also allows students to work in the art room as he recognizes the need to give our students the time and freedom they need to continue their work.

There is a sense of community, of fitting in, of belonging, for our artists that Mr. Kupcha clearly makes possible with his open-door policy and personality. That community extends after school as well each winter, when students build fantastic sets with Mr. Kupcha as part of the stage crew (Mr. Kupcha is also a talented carpenter) for the school play as well as the fall and spring, when, in all his spare time, he coaches soccer and lacrosse, school teams.

Mr. Kupcha has also remained current in his practice. He seeks out opportunities to use technology in his classroom.  He advocates for new technology and seeks out professional development to further enhance his practice. This summer he is leading a team of teachers to a three-day summer institute at Princeton University that will focus on the development of school/district projects that stress Arts-Infused Instruction in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). He also looks for feedback on how to improve what he is currently doing and reflects on the lessons, activities, and projects he uses each year with our students. This year he wrote and received a grant from the Branchburg Education Foundation to purchase a high-quality photo printer.  With this tool, he plans to help students create presentation-quality work while they explore their interests in digital art and photography.

Mr. Kupcha not only brings art into the lives and culture of our school through expert instruction, passion, encouragement, and innovation but also inspires students, past and present, to be the most amazing they can be, at whatever they do, whenever they do it.