Ryan Collins and Will Eimas-Dietrich
This June will be the last time Carlos Benedict walks the halls of Jamesville-DeWitt High School as a teacher. The beloved art teacher has been at J-DHS since 1987, when he took over the position from his father, George Benedict, who had been teaching here with Mr. Wenzel for 19 years. Between he and his father, the team of Wenzel and Benedict has been guiding the art department for 48 years. Many students at J-DHS will miss the tremendous help and instruction they received from Mr. Benedict.
Mr. Benedict began making art at a young age under the influence of his father. Eventually, he got accepted into The Cooper Union art school located in Manhattan, NY, with an emphasis (major) in painting and a minor in drawing. He received what was basically a full scholarship to attend the Cooper Union, because, at the time, the Cooper Union was such an elite school, and accepted so few students, they were able to give all accepted students free tuition. Though the Cooper Union must now charge some tuition, U.S. News still ranks Cooper Union as the second best school in the Northern Region of America.
While in high school and college, he did not always know he was going to be an art teacher. His initial intent was to become an artist, however he decided to teach art when offered a position at Bishop Ludden High School and he hasn’t stopped teaching since, having fallen in love with teaching. The next year he went to the Cicero-North Syracuse School District for one year before settling into J-DHS. He sees teaching art as a way of helping students grow, something he takes very seriously; “there’s not a student that I didn’t try to help.”
Mr. Benedict and Mr. Wenzel’s success over the past 30 years has been achieved in some unorthodox ways. Mr. Wenzel and Mr. Benedict believe that allowing people to spend large amount of times on a piece of artwork allows them to connect with it and be successful, though that is not “by the book.” The art teachers do this to enrich the student's ability. Mr. Wenzel said that this started when he was teaching with the elder Benedict. George Benedict knew Mr. Wenzel because he recommended Mr. Wenzel for his previous position at Westhill High School. Two years later, when a position opened at J-DHS in 1968, Mr. Wenzel got the call for his job.
Like his father, Mr. Benedict has influenced the art program here at J-DHS for many years. “He has taught us to be independent, which is very helpful. He pushes you to do stuff on your own,” said senior Emily Maar. Mr. Benedict has helped countless students throughout the years here at J-DHS and says he just wants them “to still be able to think outside of the box.” “He taught me how to do oil painting, which I never knew how to do before and I was successful my first time,” said junior Sadie Bobbette. “Every piece is like a stepping stone to your development,” said Shen, referring to her progress through all of the projects she completed under Mr. Benedict. “All students who have gone on to be artists have enjoyed and appreciated his talent,” said Mr. Wenzel. His easy going and dedicated personality has really made his students enjoy art. “I don't think I’ll have another professor in college as good and skilled as (he is),” said Maar.
Students can see that his father’s legacy means a lot to him. “He is very inspired by his dad because he mentions him a lot,” said senior Rebecca Shen. The supportive and encouraging character that Mr. Benedict displays daily has shaped the lives of his students. “He is so supportive. He came to events such as Scholastic and different art galleries that I’ve had work in,” said Maar.
Over their time shared as classroom roommates, Mr. Benedict and Mr. Wenzel have developed an unbreakable friendship. “He always had my back,” said Mr. Wenzel. The two have known each other for over 30 years. “We have gone through a lot together, including family issues,” said Mr. Wenzel. In the past few years they have both had their share of sickness and stuck together throughout.
Pricipal Paul Gasparini thinks that the loss of the talented Mr. Benedict in the art department will be difficult to replace. “We have a high expectation of art here at J-D,” said Mr. Gasparini. “Our arts are second to none. We have a complete school due to the strength of the arts,” said Mr. Gasparini who credits Mr. Benedict’s hardworking and driven nature and his passion for the arts for that success.
Filling in for Mr. Benedict in the art department will be J-DHS graduate, Jacob Brodsky. Having Mr. Brodsky teach will prolong the legacy of Mr. Benedict because he had Mr. Brodsky as a student. “Being a graduate of J-D, (Mr. Brodsky) understands firsthand the quality of arts expected here at J-D,” said Mr. Gasparini. Brodsky is currently the art teacher at Jamesville Elementary School and was a professional artist before his teaching career.
After his retirement, Mr. Benedict and his wife plan to go to Mayville, New York, just southwest of Buffalo, to work on a friend’s farm during the summer. Mr. Benedict takes pride in his work and wants to keep working throughout his retirement, even if it is not teaching high school students. At the farm, he will bring in hay, ride horses, and complete other specialized jobs around the farm. He also wants to spend his time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He does say that one thing that he will miss, which he already has started to miss, is “the students that I know I would get to work with next year.” Even though he won’t be teaching art at J-DHS anymore, he is thinking about teaching small classes or private lessons for kids and adults.
Mr. Benedict will always be remembered for his work ethic and dedication to the success of the arts at J-DHS. Teachers and students throughout J-D are still surprised and sad when people mention his retirement. When asked if he had anything else to say about Mr. Benedict, Mr. Wenzel said, “No...if I say anymore I think I might start bawling.”