Art & Culture

Local teacher receives Congressional recognition as he retires

Local San Benito High School art teacher John Robrock receives Congressional recognition upon his retirement after four decades of teaching.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta recognized John Robrock, 65 of Hollister, at a meeting of the House of Representatives on June 7, 2018.

In his address to the House, Panetta stated his desire to congratulate Robrock in his lifelong dedication to art education and to wish him well as he retired from teaching after starting his career in 1979.

“Throughout his career, Mr.Robrock inspired countless young students to explore their creative abilities and pursue their artistic goals,” Panetta stated. “With his support and guidance, Mr.Robrock’s students have earned thousands of dollars in scholarships as well as trips to Washington D.C. and Japan to present their work.”

Robrock’s students have won awards in competitions such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest, California Coastal Commission Environmental Youth Art and Poetry Contest, the U.S. Congressional District High School Show, Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Education Award Program, and the Native Daughters of the Golden West.

In his four decades in education, Robrock has also had about 160 students take the Advanced Placement in Studio Arts Exam. Robrock said that only a handful have not received a three or better on the exam, making his pass rate above the national average.

For professional accomplishments, Robrock has been named River of Words Art and Poetry Teacher of the Year, February 2010 Crystal Apple award winner, and has won multiple local awards for his artwork.

When asked what he believed made his program a success, Robrock stated he learned how to simplify the process due to his own lack of natural ability growing up.

“I’m not a naturally gifted artist,” Robrock said. “I think that’s what made me a good teacher. I knew how to get there start to finish. I reveal it’s not as difficult as you think. You don’t have to be born with talent. It’s a step by step process that if you follow it works every time.”

Heather Nichols, department chair for the visual and performing arts department at San Benito High School, has worked alongside Robrock for nine years. In her capacity as department chair, Nichols has observed Robrock in his ability as a teacher and his participation in the art community within San Benito County. For Nichols, Robrock’s ability to push students to reach success while promoting the arts has always been pivotal.

“He always pushed his students to reach a professional standard in the arts,” Nichols said. “High school can be full of stress from academic and social pressures, but students do not feel those stresses when they are in his class. They are given the freedom to express their interests in visual, hands-on ways.”

As Robrock stated, “What I teach is what I learned in college, so they are creating college level work.”

2004 San Benito High School graduate Allison Garcia received encouragement from Robrock to develop her skill. She continues to create art today.

“[Robrock] was the first person in my life who was a skilled artist who made me feel like I had a gift, or like my dream to be an artist could actually be a reality,” Garcia said.

Today Garcia lives in Santa Cruz and displays her artwork in exhibitions. Garcia will also receive her BFA in pictorial art from San Jose State University in the spring of 2019 and has recently created a t-shirt and mug design for Vertigo Coffee Roasters in San Juan Bautista.

Camryn Rosskamp, who graduated from San Benito High School last spring, is another person who feels art and her experience in Mr.Robrock’s class molded her life.

“Mr.Robrock has allowed me to look at everything around me in a whole different respect,” Rosskamp said. “Everything in its own way is artwork. Even life itself.”

While speaking on the importance of access for artistic expression for teenagers, Garcia expressed how access to art in school can be life-changing.

“I believe art is integral,” Garcia said. “Having a medium to express yourself is invaluable, especially as a young person who might not have the articulation to verbally say how they are feeling.”

Rosskamp also expressed this sentiment of art being vital for young adults and children.

“It’s important to have art education so our young generations spend less time on their electronic devices and more time interacting with their outside environment and expressing their attitudes through physical handy work in their art pieces,” Rosskamp said.

Robrock’s dedication to the classroom and his encouragement to go beyond the classroom by submitting their work in local and national competitions opened up opportunities for students. The art teacher also helps create art shows every year for his students to display their work.

When asked what he would miss the most about teaching, Robrock said working with students and watching them reach success.

“I have dedicated my life to this," Robrock said. "I will miss working with the kids and watching them take this knowledge and doing something with it. This is not just a job, it’s something that influences young people. That’s the real reward.”



Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.