Dedicated to career and technical education, High School for Art and Design (HSAD) is the premier high school for arts-related careers in the tristate area – namely New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Using Toon Boom Animate Pro, the school offers a three-year animation program. Year one covers cartooning and animation, year two features animation leading to Toon Boom assessment and certification, and year three features SkillsUSA for 3D, keeping Animate Pro three days per week and Maya two days per week.
HSAD counts many famous artists and filmmakers among its graduates. Currently there are approximately 1,200 students attending the school. Almost 65 % of the students are eligible for a reduced or free lunch. The school population is composed of 27% African-American, 53% Hispanic, 9% Asian-American and 12% Caucasian. The school has a 90% attendance rate. Sixty-five percent of the teaching staff is highly qualified, possessing a master's degree plus 30 or more credits. Eighty-three percent of students graduate within five years. Almost all graduates gain admission to and attend college.
In addition to Elma Reingold, Supervisor Assistant Principal of Art, it is important to highlight the great work done by Mike Klein, animation teacher at HSAD. Mike brings a fascinating range of experience to his classroom. As a graduate of School for the Visual Arts and Mercy College, he worked on several productions, including Doug, Sesame Street, and My Little Puppy. Then Mike decided to pursue teaching, which led him to work in elementary schools as well as at alternative high schools to teach animation at Passages Academy, a school for incarcerated youth followed by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, which supports 18 local school districts in New York state by offering career and technical education services among others.
“During my career, I followed the evolution of Toon Boom technology. I saw it at several tradeshows and found the market consolidation with Pegs and Animo quite interesting. Toon Boom is definitely the industry standard. On the other end, Flash is no longer developed for animation. My rule is to go with a solution when it’s on a positive growth and that is totally the case for Toon Boom. At the end of the day, it is beneficial for my students to learn this technology to get jobs once they graduate,” explained Mike.
During the 2012–2013 school year, Mike decided to teach his students to prepare for the Toon Boom certification. “I used the Toon Boom curriculum and followed all the lessons. It gave my students a sense of comfort with Animate Pro,” he stated. In August 2013, 30 students successfully passed the test and received their Toon Boom certification.
During the 2013–2014 school year, Mike took a different approach and asked his students to create projects, such as a commercial for a cereal brand and an animation of different types of weather in order to blend theory with practical assignments. “While learning the theory, students work on their own. It was quite a challenge to have them work in teams for the projects. “Beyond learning digital animation techniques, students need to be comfortable with teamwork and collaboration,” explained Mike.
Mike teaches to 90 students per day and is pleased to see them put into practice what they learn. Some of them have won competitions and already have job opportunities. One of his students, Adiel Hernandez, shared on his experience learning Animate Pro: “Toon Boom has helped me become a better artist since it was introduced to mein school almost two years ago. I find it much easier to use and better looking than any other animation software out there. What I love about Animate Pro is the many different tools I can use to create an animated scene with great quality. My favourite tool is the brush tool because I love the result of my lines when I play with the smoothness and contour optimization settings. I also enjoy the Advanced Animation toolbar while working in Perspective mode because I could have 3D components in my 2D animations using these tools. All the tools are great and even if I run into a problem, I always find a way to fix it and become much happier with Animate Pro knowing that I have so much experience in the program,” stated Adiel.
Ever since he became certified, Adiel perused the jobs posted in the Job Connections section of Toon Boom’s website to find a job in animation. “After I posted my resume, I looked through the job listings for jobs that specifically needed either experience or certification in Animate Pro. In November 2013, an animator from Los Angeles named Luis Banuelos emailed me because he was interested in recruiting me for his animation studio. Luis hired me as an animation director as well as a clean up animator on his cartoon show. Currently, I'm animating a scene given to me over the Internet where I have to draw out and fully rig a character that will interact with a character that Luis made. This is a volunteer job but I'm happy to be working with a professional and gaining experience through it,” shared Adiel.
In 2013, another Toon Boom certified student, Francis Genares, 17 years old, won the Gold Medal at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in the Video Games category. Francis used Animate Pro to create the animation for his entry. Since 1923, the Awards has recognized the exceptional vision of United States’ youth, and provided a singular opportunity for students to be noticed for their creative talents. The Awards received 230,000 original works from students during its 2013 program year.
Mike is very pleased to see his students embrace animation and start their career with their newly acquired creative skills and certification. HSAD is now planning to include a new major in gaming, which adds another layer of excitement at the school and opens up even broader opportunities for their students.