Ms. Yankura Opens Her Students’ Eyes to the World Around Them

Kiley Galvin '23, Odds & Ends Writer

Photography has always been an interest of mine, and in my freshman year at St. Luke’s, I enrolled in my first photography class. Never considering myself an artist, I requested the class with the intention of simply completing my art requirement.  To my surprise, Photography 1 was just the beginning to an enriching artistic journey through the St. Luke’s Art program and Ms. Yankura has made this experience an extraordinary learning experience. 

My first semester of photography took place in the spring semester of 2020. After only two months, we transitioned to remote learning due to COVID-19. As expected, it was difficult for Ms. Yankura to teach photography on zoom.  The class is centered around film and developing, and with no access to a dark room, Ms. Yankura had to quickly improvise. She creatively altered the curriculum of the class to give students an equally educational and fulfilling experience. She created new coursework to transition the class to digital cameras and editing through photoshop, which was new to all her students. 

Through distance learning, I really got to know Ms. Yankura.  I admired her enthusiasm and excitement about each lesson. She  worked hard to  ensure that all her students had a solid understanding of each new lesson. Ms. Yankura delivered this new curriculum with ease, and it was not transparent to her students that she had spent countless hours recording a tutorial video for every possible tool that you could use on photoshop, so that it was easier for us to utilize this new software. 

Throughout this virtual end of the semester, our class practiced and learned about an important concept in the photography world that didn’t require use of a camera. We developed the skill of giving and receiving art critiques with our teacher and classmates. Ms. Yankura provided insightful feedback, which immediately made me realize the value of sharing our work with  her. 

When you present your images, Ms. Yankura  always points out the positives first, which makes you feel  accomplished, and boosts your confidence in your work and abilities. This  encouraging atmosphere and strong working relationship between Ms. Yankura and her students help students discover their talents  within the photography world. Ms. Yankura brings out the best work out of all of her students. 

She said, “I love what I do so much that I want to share that with as many people as I can. One of the best notes I ever got from a parent, she wrote, thank you for helping my son to see beauty and light. This stays with me because I was able to help another human to be able to completely change his perspective on life for the positive, and he is still working on photography today. Just knowing that I am able to help people to find purpose and be inventors, and create something.”

Ms. Yankura has changed my perspective on photography and has guided me in developing  skills I will use for the rest of my life. In terms of photography, I am now able to shoot all different types of images, forcing me to see the artistry and complexity of everything around me. Through my photography work, I have developed a more acute perspective of my surroundings, bringing ordinary items to life through the camera.  My enthusiasm and eagerness to shoot has grown because of the endless possibilities that I can capture through the lense and transform into  an incredible piece of art with the photoshop techniques Ms. Yankura  has taught me. She has also been a mentor to me, and, through her hard work ethic and inspiring guidance, she has shown me the impact that I can have on others by using my creativity.

Aside from Ms. Yankura’s tremendous impact on me as a photographer and student, she has completely transformed and enhanced the photography and digital design courses at SLS. She rebuilt the photo and the digital design curriculum, which incorporates digital photography, and discussion with color, specifically the impact that color has on photographic images.  Before she started teaching at St. Luke’s, digital design was essentially a course on how to use Photoshop. Now she has introduced the discussion of branding, typeface, and the option to utilize Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.  Plus,  she has added appealing topics such as logos and marketing to the Art program. Before Ms. Yankura improved the program, black and white photography was the only type of pictures available to the students, and she has now brought color into the program. Color controls the composition, content and overall aesthetics and elevates a student’s experience with photography. Speaking from experience, color brings an incredible amount of optionaility into a photo, especially during the editing process. The use of color has truly made me want to learn more and explore all of the endless possibilities available.

Ms. Yankura also developed a challenging and educational experience for those who seek to take a photography course at the highest level. With the removal of AP classes, she has worked hard to replace this class with a course called “Advanced Art Practices: Senior Thesis” that has a similar dynamic of the AP, but includes more curatorial approaches that incorporate real world studies and assignments. The students in this class create a body of work, and learn how to create a presentation of their images for press releases by assembling their creation in a professional way.

Ms. Yankura goes above and beyond to provide her students with an incredible educational experience in photography.  Her constant energy and enthusiasm for her subject matter is contagious, and her students truly look forward to her class. Ms. Yankura’s unwavering dedication to her student’s learning and her positivity inspire a deep love of learning and brings out the best in each of her students.