Article and photo by Rubi Melo
Artist and teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College and Santa Rosa High School, John Sappington’s story of discovering his passion for the arts is fascinating. Sappington has had a variety of experiences in different fields of work, but it all essentially led to his job now, sharing his acquired skills and his perspective on art with his students. Sappington has taught in Santa Rosa High School’s ArtQuest program for 10 years. He spent his first 5 years teaching digital arts until he switched to teaching his greatest passion: photography.
Sappington, who grew up in Missouri, has always been interested in writing. “I wanted to be a writer, whatever that meant, and it meant all kinds of things along the way,” he told me about growing up and discovering a journalism class at his middle school. Sappington stuck with journalism through middle school and into high school. His interest in journalism led to his dabbling in photography as he was asked to build a darkroom for his high school, so they could develop photos for their yearbook.
Sappington bought his first camera (a 35 millimeter Nikon film camera) because he wanted to impress a girl. In high school he started seeing a girl who was interested in photography and journalism as well; Sappington became motivated to take his photography further. When he reached out to the owner of his local newspaper and asked for a job he was given a story to shoot for. He learned how to use his camera over the summer so that he was prepared. Then, unfortunately, his parents moved him out of town and to a smaller country town, and he was not able to shoot for the story.
This did not stop him from pursuing his passion for photography. After he broke up with his high school girlfriend, Sappington switched his focus from going to a journalism school to going to a school for the arts. He got his bachelor’s degree in photography and also became interested in digital arts.
Sappington spent time as a computer technician and consultant in San Francisco before he taught graphic design at the Santa Rosa Junior College, then found his way to Santa Rosa High School.
When asked whether or not he looks forward to retiring, Sappington said, “I don’t intend to ever retire.” He enjoys the flexibility that comes with teaching at the SRJC and interacting with the students at both schools. “I feel like I stay more in touch with the world by having students”, he said.