The RETURN of two HBHA Alums: Slater Sousley and Stella Shapiro


Tali Gortenburg and Zachary Liss

Beginning this year, there have been some changes in the art department. When Kelly Reichman was on medical leave, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy hired two substitutes to cover her classes, and they both happen to be HBHA alums. These substitutes were Slater Sousley, who covered Richman’s high school classes, and Stella Shapiro, who substituted for her middle and lower school art classes.

Sousley rose to the occasion, filling the role of high school art teacher with his own, unique teaching methods. Two words that describe Sousley are passionate and persistent. He is dedicated to his career path as a painter, along with the many treacherous parts that present themselves. 

Sousley has always been passionate about art, and was thrilled to help out in Reichman’s absence. Image by Jenny Meade.

Sousley is an HBHA graduate from the class of 2013. He has been away from HBHA for a while, but he came back a few times to teach Winterims. Souley had, “mixed emotions about being back… this place that was school is now work, so y’know it it’s really special.” In addition, daily teaching at HBHA is markedly different from just doing a Winterim. Sousley says that he was happy to help in the art room as much as he could.

The career path as a painter has not always been easy for Sousley. In fact, it has been “a life full of rejection.” He explains that everything you do in art is temporary whether it’s a show or a magazine. In addition, this lifestyle of having your art constantly rejected from art publications over and over again can be discouraging. However, Sousley has one main motivation that keeps him going and that is the time that he spends working in his studio. Time in the studio is one of the main sources of emotional wellbeing for Sousley. It is a place that can be rejuvenating and exhausting at the same time. However, most of all, it’s a place that Sousley could always rely on as a constant, and, he says, “where the hours melt away.” When his time is over at HBHA, he plans to spend a significant time in his studio.

While Sousley is dedicated to helping out with high school art classes, he is excited to get back to his studio and work on his next ventures. Image by Jane Martin.

Sousley has many inspirations, and Reichman has been a prominent figure in his life. She is a person who set the wheels in motion for his career, and one of the most memorable teachers throughout all of his life. One influential memory that he looks back on is when Ms. Reichman brought him a pamphlet for a summer intensive program in Massachusetts to school. Sousley signed up for the event, attended, and “The rest is history.” In addition, Sousley has even helped out with this program in recent years.

Overall, Sousley is a passionate and persistent person who, although has had trouble in the past, will continue to work hard and make his mark on the world.

With Sousley expert coverage of the high school classes, his co-worker, Stella Shapiro took on middle and lower school art during Reichman’s absence.

As she gently takes the half-painted box from the student, Shapiro assures them that they are doing a fantastic job while at the same time offers helpful advice. She tells them to not be afraid of making the painting more bold. As a former student at HBHA herself (class of 2017), Shapiro feels a strong connection to HBHA, and the odds worked out in her favor that she was able to come back to teach her passion, art.

After graduating from high school at Shawnee Mission South (she switched there after eighth grade), Shapiro attended Clark University, where she double-majored in English and Studio Art. Although having not graduated from HBHA, Shapiro has always felt connected to the school. 

“It definitely made huge differences out you know, throughout my life,” she says. She describes her experience at the annual HBHA Rosh HaShana Seder, “We did the same thing and I’m looking around and I’m seeing all these teachers that had me. I find it very comforting and I also find it very supportive that I have a lot of teachers here that I had.” 

Shapiro is excited to be back at HBHA and has loved her time teaching middle and lower school art classes. Image courtesy of Stella Shapiro.

Shapiro describes how she got into art and why she loves it so much. She takes a unique stance on her view of art and how it affects and surrounds our everyday lives. Concerning the fashionable blouse she had on, she said, “Someone designed this, someone made a pattern for it, someone constructed buttons. Somewhere someone, someone designed it.” As arguably the most fashionable teacher in the school, her love of and fascination with art shows in almost every way. From vintage blouses to floral dresses, her fashion sense, along with her appreciation for art, is hard to ignore. She says that this innovative view of art, along with artistic influences such as her father, is what inspired her affinity for art.

Shapiro’s favorite types of art span a wide variety, the most prevalent among them mixed media, portraiture, and paintings of faces. She also enjoys studying the human body and incorporating symbolism into her art. 

In the future, Shapiro has dreams of working on commissioned art and seeing her work featuring in galleries. She also describes how teaching has affected her and how it might be something she would like to do more of in the future. 

“I’ve also kind of found I have a little bit of a love for teaching and I think I’ve learned a lot from seeing all different age ranges, you know discovering themselves, and especially themselves as artists” says Shapiro.  She says she would like to focus more on a personal artists’ level.

Stella Shapiro will have an opportunity to further explore teaching as a career, as she has recently been hired as a full-time teacher’s aid at HBHA.

HBHA is grateful for all the help of Sousley and Shapiro and the energy they brought to the art classroom in Kelly Reichman’s absence.  As Reichman has now returned to school, things seem to be back to normal. She searches for something in her desk, and a student calls her name asking for help. She gives them advice on what to do, then goes back to her previous task. “I am so happy to be back,” she says while laughing. “I missed everybody so much and it’s just a joy to be back here.”