“Passion” is a word that comes up when people talk about Trinity High School visual arts teacher Sherry Knight. It comes up in the way her students talk about her: “Her passion for art is only outdone by her passion for sharing her skills and knowledge with us.” In the way her husband describes her: “She is a very dedicated art educator whose passion for art has certainly carried over to her students.” And in her own description of her vocation: “Teaching isn’t a job. It’s a passion.”
A lifelong resident of Washington, she was studying art at Carlow College (now University) when her life’s work became clear to her. “I was taking studio classes and I would help fellow students. They said, ‘You’re a great teacher!’” She added Education to her major and exclaims, “It’s the best thing I ever did!”
Thirty‐three years ago, she became a visual arts teacher at Trinity High School, utilizing her natural talent for reaching kids, even those others have given up on. “I always tell kids, I have a problem accepting ‘I can’t.’ I know they can. Sometimes they are afraid to try. Everybody has creative ability, I just help them corral that.”
Her husband, Kent Knight says she ”pushes ‘at risk’ students to open up through their art and let their creativity out, along with anger, frustration and pain that many of them feel due to problems in their lives.”
She knows when she has reached a student. “You watch for little light bulbs, flickering at first,
then it comes on. It’s something in their eyes. You just know it.”
Her immense talent has been recognized many times over the years, with Fulbright scholarships to study art in Japan and China, numerous teaching awards and as Pennsylvania finalist for NASA’s Teacher in Space program.
Trinity HS Vice‐Principal Joseph Orr notes, “Students seek out Mrs. Knight and her guidance
on school and personal issues because they know that she cares and will listen to them,
offering her advice and perspective.”
Jette Grey, a parent, commends “her dedication to her students, their families, the community and her constant quest to learn and share her knowledge.”
She has one other passion: helping unwanted animals. “”My mother was the neighborhood rescuer, injured animals just came to her.” That model of dedication inspired her to found Pet Search, a non‐profit organization that has placed over 10,000 homeless or unwanted animals. The organization averages 600‐1000 animals in foster care each year.
She mixes her two loves by encouraging her students to volunteer helping animals. “The students’ experiences can change their outlook on the lives of dogs or cats. My husband Kent says, ‘You can’t save the world!’ But I can keep chipping away at the iceberg, whether it’s at school trying to reach a teenager, or crawling into a storm drain for a kitten.”
Sherry Knight’s biggest reward is not the awards she has received; it’s her daily interaction
with teenagers. “I get to share their lives every day. When they fail, I pick them up and we keep going. When they succeed, I can be happy and cry with them.”
By Dorothy Tecklenburg