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Born and raised in San Francisco, I had a very urban childhood. My parents drove me across town to attend a K-8 school in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood because it had the kind of progressive teaching programs and community-based practices they sought. After school, I went to the Columbia Park Boys & Girls club where the art studio became my home. The instructor, a man with a curly mustache named Bill Mayfield, made it his mission to get me and his other top students admitted to the Asawa School of the Arts High School, San Francisco’s magnet arts high school. He was always encouraging us to, “get into SOTA.”

Based on his descriptions, SOTA seemed like a mythical place where the art gods lived, and, because of the acronym, it took me a while to be sure he was talking about an actual place, and not using sugary beverages as some sort of vague metaphor for artistic training. Under Bill’s tutelage, and taking weekend classes at an atelier in downtown San Francisco run by a man named Bruce Tessler (sadly, forced to move during the dot com boom), I compiled a portfolio and skill set strong enough to earn admission into SOTA, where I took a two-hour studio art class every afternoon. As fate would have it, I have returned to SOTA as a teacher, and it is a great feeling being able to provide the same inspiration for young people that I benefited from in my youth.

I live in Berkeley where I am the property manager in a five-unit building.  I have been teaching visual art for the past eight years, since earning my BFA in 2008, and before that, for three of my undergrad years. The college I attended had a unique high school outreach program, taught by undergraduates, to help underprivileged New York City high school students create visual arts portfolios to earn admission into the school. It was an intensive seven-hour class every Saturday, and that is where I realized I love to teach.

I received my Masters in Education and single subject art credential in July of 2017, and have been working full-time at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts High School (Asawa SOTA) as a Drawing/Photography/English teacher.

I encourage everyone to view my work and the work of my students in the Portfolio and Student Work sections of this site.

–Jeff Castleman