Andrew Drozd is a Google Certified Teacher at the Academy of Urban Planning, a public high school in Bushwick. He teaches graphic design classes at the school, but his students are learning far more than the basics of Photoshop.
This year, Drozd and his students have started approaching independently owned businesses in Brooklyn and Queens and offering them personalized print media.
So far over 40 businesses have signed on — mostly in Glendale and Ridgewood — and over 20 of those are already displaying student-designed posters in their storefront windows.
The class currently does the posters free of charge, but due to the overwhelming response from businesses, Drozd is thinking of ways to rework the system.
For now, the class continues to do most work for free. If businesses want larger posters, however, they are charged $20. That money currently goes toward buying snacks for the class to enjoy together, a decision the students voted on.
Drozd began teaching the class in 2006, but he knew even then that he wanted to provide more authentic learning in his classroom.
“I realized how critical it is to give meaning to what my students are doing by sharing their talents with the community, with other teachers and with their families,” Drozd said.
He said the response to the students’ work has been overwhelmingly positive.
“My students are producing amazing work, the businesses report popularity with the posters and our small school is gaining recognition,” he said.
He also believes the style of teaching has been important for his students.
“When I started teaching, I realized how neglected the idea of creativity is in the classroom,” he said. “The combination of creativity and technology really lends itself well to Photoshop and graphic design.”
His students agree with their teacher.
Maranda Rivera, a junior in Drozd’s class, spoke about a recent trip the class took to Huge, a digital business, design and marketing agency.
“We sat down and talked to their senior artistic designer and he said he was impressed with our work,” Rivera said. “He said that even they hadn’t done anything like this when they were in high school.”
Besides the skills she is learning, Rivera also said the class has become like a small community.
“I really enjoy my class,” she said. “It’s not just a class any more, we’ve developed a really close bond.”
Her classmate, Amanda Singh, said that at first she did not enjoy Drozd’s class.
“At first when I took the class, I didn’t like it,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about computers.’ But now I can actually see myself having a future with graphic design.
“It feels good that someone wants to hang your artwork,” she added.
Businesses interested in Drozd and his students’ work can visit his website.