While still only in her second year at Bernard Zell, the Jewish Day School environment is certainly not unfamiliar to Lower School art teacher, Shana Ryback. Having grown up in Lincolnwood, Illinois, Shana attended Solomon Schecter Day School before moving on to Ida Crown Jewish Academy for her high school education. So when she started teaching at Bernard Zell in the fall of 2018, the community atmosphere, in many ways, felt like a homecoming.
As a kid, Shana fondly remembers sitting in front of the television—but not necessarily to follow the storyline of any particular show. Instead, she was watching cartoons so she could try drawing those familiar characters with her own art supplies. These TV-inspired drawing lessons evolved from simple copies to her own original illustrations, ultimately sparking an interest in being a cartoonist while continuing to fuel her long-standing passion for art.
But as Shana approached college, animation was increasingly becoming a digital art form. As someone who really wanted to work with her hands and tangible materials, she initially majored in painting at the University of Illinois Champaign but the experience of working as a camp counselor caused her to shift her focus into Arts Education—a career path that truly blended her dual interests of fine arts and working with kids.
Since completing her degree at U of I, Shana has honed her practice as an arts educator. After two years of teaching in Mundelein, she spent a decade working in Chicago Public Schools and during that time completed a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. As a teacher, Shana’s curriculum is heavily based in arts integration. She strives to find the places where art intersects with other subjects making the work richer and more relevant for her students.
Now with her two daughters—ages 8 and 11—growing up and becoming more independent, Shana has found some time to return to her own art practice, including sewing and drawing. It’s also been an opportunity to bring more art experiences to her own kids. This return to her roots as an artist is mirrored in a return to the warmth of Jewish community she remembers from her own elementary and high school days. For Shana, Bernard Zell has felt like coming home again, and as a teacher, has allowed her to see herself in her students and offer them the highest quality education rooted in collaboration, community and Jewish values.