Kirk Garbisch has had a tremendous impact on arts education in Wrangell as well as Southeast Alaska as the high school art teacher since 1982. During this time he provided the students of Wrangell with opportunities to develop and show their arts. With technology becoming more important in other aspects of their lives Kirk also looked for ways to combine technology and the arts.
Through a grant, Kirk was able to also come into the elementary classrooms to work with teachers and their students to learn new art techniques. This became an outstanding professional development opportunity for all the elementary teachers.
The impact Kirk has made for Wrangell and Southeast Alaska is tied to his founding of the Arts Fest, an opportunity for students to share their art with people outside of the island. The Art Fest grew and about 6 years ago the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) for Region 5 incorporated it under their umbrella so that Art Fest is now a shared event in Southeast. One of the criteria set for art teachers who come to Art Fest is to take a class and to teach a class. This has become a wonderful professional development opportunity for art teachers in Southeast.
Kirk also worked with the Indian Education Act (IEA) employee at the high school to provide funds to support students of Native descent work with Native cultural arts. Some of these students were in danger of failing at school and Kirk and this opportunity helped them to be successful in school.
As an artist and teacher, Kirk is a man who understands that having a quality forum for self-expression is a vital component in students’ lives. He has provided that opportunity for his students as well as his colleagues and has left a legacy that will continue.