Manchester Craftsman’s Guild Very Own- Jeff Guerrero

Amanda Rose Jones, Editor

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Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, or more loosely know as MCG is an art education, and music organization that has been instated in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 1968. This year is the Institutes 50th year anniversary. To celebrate and honor the legacy of the Guild, the Eagle has managed to interview one of the most well-known and established teachers employed: Jeff Guerrero.

Amanda Jones: When did you know you wanted to teach?

Jeff Guerrero: I didn’t I actually applied for this job to be an exhibitions assistance. I had no interest in teaching kids. Ironically, they convinced me to interview for both positions and the guy- another guy who’s name also is Jeff- interviewed for both positions too. See, he really wanted to be a teacher, and they wound up giving us the exact opposite jobs that we wanted.

AJ: How long have you been employed at Manchester’s Craftsman Guild?

JG: This is my.. I’ve been here for ten years and this is my eleventh school year.

AJ: My God, that’s almost my entire lifetime.

JG: Yeah I know, it’s precious.

AJ: What classes do you teach?

JG: The main class that I lead is for highschool students, and it’s Anime Appreciation. We have a variety of programming though, so I teach Tuesday night. Along running Tuesday night pottery class for adults, and currently I lead the Friday morning classes for Holy Family Academy. It’s like a private school for highschool kids. It’s like a low income private school, and we provide their art education. Basically, and then Kay (fellow tech teacher) and I we co-teach other programming as well. We have a program for middle school kids in the neighborhood. We trade off on who teaches those classes.

AJ: Have you imagined yourself being anything other than a teacher?

JG: Well I have been other things than a teacher. Almost the entire time I’ve been working here I’ve been publishing a magazine about bicycles. And then- that was my career before that. I was a magazine art director. And then I do freelance graphic design and periodical publishing as my main job, art form, whatever. Then I also, in the time that I’ve worked here, I’ve done pottery. I make and sell pottery, yeah.

AJ: What did you want to do when you were a child?

JG: I remember wanting to be something that had to do with flying airplanes or something that had to do with being a fighter pilot. You know maybe a professional football place kicker? I think as a really young kid I probably liked that. Let’s see what else. Oh, a professional musician. I wanted to be a rockstar. Actually, I did play in bands for many years.

AJ: What did you play?

JG: Bass guitar. And one of the bands actually, the very first band that I played in, just through sort of contacts and being at the right place at the right time- we almost got signed to a record deal. But our drummer fell in love with a girl from Ohio and it fell apart.

AJ: So, you have various talents, such a pottery and photography. Why teach a digital class instead of one of those?

JG: My main skill is in doing graphic design. That’s what I have the most experience for. I ran a sign shop straight out of art school, and I would up being an art director for a magazine for about eight years. I then ran my own magazine for another eight years. Currently, I publish for the NCECA journal, which is the National Council for Education of the Ceramic Arts. That annual journal is my current job outside of this job, which is my big job. Then I do a lot of websites and other types of things freelance.

AJ: How would you describe the overall learning environment at MCG?

JG: Loose. Manchester Craftmen’s Guild is a tremendous opportunity for students. It’s truly an opportunity for the teachers as well. The teachers are given a lot of leeway to run things the way that they feel, just the way they want to run it. So some people run a more structured class with more outright encouragement. I mean with like, tasks to be done. Some teachers have a looser sort of environment which tends to be the way I do things. Especially in my main after school class. I run it more like a- well, my personal class is really focused on art appreciation. And so, in college you would take an art appreciation class even if you weren’t necessarily an artist. It just allows you to become a part of the culture, it just allows you to become educated on the subject matter, so on and so forth. So that’s the way I treat this particular class. But I feel that with art you- the artists need to be inspired in order to do art well. That’s always been my philosophy with working with artists as an art director. And I try to control the artists and photographers as little as I can to try and get the best work for them. So in a way I treat the students in much the same way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But, the whole point of Manchester Craftmen’s Guild is not to produce artists. The point of Manchester Craftmen’s Guild is to mentor students through the art. So art is the vehicle to mentor-ship. The thing that we’re most proud of here, one of the things, but I’d say the most proud of is that over 97% of the students that attend Manchester Craftmen’s Guild graduate high school on time. And so, whether or not we’re teaching them art, we’re keeping students engaged in school life. Just basically helping people have a positive outlook on life. You know in a lot of cases providing, maybe, the sort of attention or whatever that they’re not maybe getting at school or at home. It’s not to say though, that we’re like, the exclusive provider of these things. Because I’ve grown to know quite a few Pittsburgh Public School teachers, and they too are often tremendous mentors. I’ve also got to know quite a few kids parents, and in many of the cases, our best students parents are actively involved in their lives. So MCG, just winds up sort of being an additional, you know, mentor-ship and resource for these students.

AJ: Do you think as a kid you could have ever imagined yourself living your life now, being the way it is?

JG: Yes and no. Mostly no. But when I was in high school I had an art teacher who was super cool. And through sort of strange circumstances, my first year of high school, I did not get to sign up for art class. I was new to the state and I signed up late, and they told me the only thing I could do was agricultural mechanics and hoarder culture. Which meant that I went to school for half a day, in a separate building, with people who chewed tobacco. We watched a slide show like one time, as a group we were to identify the livestock as male or female by observing their genitalia. And calling out male and female.

AJ: What kind of school did you go to?

JG: This was Votech.  And so I learned how to make a push stick for using a table saw. Things like that. It was very much a culture shock from somebody from my background. Anyways, long story short, the second year I did get into art class. The third year I took art again, and the teacher was really, really good. And so when I was a senior, he said oh, you missed out. So you can take art twice a day as a senior student. So I really then spent the greatest amount of time in my day, in the art classroom with the art teacher. So I really did sort of see myself being an art teacher as a desirable job. You know it was a very positive influence on my life. I just didn’t actively pursue education though. I went to art school thinking that I was going to be an illustrator. Thinking that I was going to do paintings for magazines. It didn’t end up really being that at all.

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