Teacher Tea: Mr. Mennsfield

Art teacher shares his experience teaching high school


Photo by Leila Olukoga

Art 1 teacher Valento Mennsfield grades his student’s art pieces. This is Mennsfield’s first year working as an art teacher at a high school.

Eight-year-old Valento Mennsfield always wanted to emulate his father. He found his father’s work ethic to be his best quality. One night, Mennsfield curiously walked into the living room to find his father sitting in front of the dimly lit television, sketching something on a big yellow notepad. As he neared his father, he realized it was a self-portrait from when he was in the military. That’s when Mennsfield found a genuine love for art.

Mennsfield has been an art teacher for 13 years and began teaching at the high school level this year. Although Mennsfield found his passion for art at a young age, he initially wanted to become a Department of Public Safety officer like his best friend’s father. 

“My best friend’s dad was a DPS officer, and I was fascinated by his work,” Mennsfield said. “I was very into being a law enforcement officer. When I was in college getting my art degree, I honestly didn’t know what it was that I was wanting to do, but then I decided that art was what I wanted to pursue.”

Before teaching at Hebron, Mennsfield worked simultaneously as an art teacher at Vivian Field Middle School and a football coach at R.L. Turner High School. 

“I was actually very excited to be both an art teacher and a coach,” Mennsfield said. “I got my first teaching job in Carrollton in the district that I graduated from. My art teacher from high school was basically my boss, and she knew how passionate I am about art and sports, so she called me up to offer me both positions, and I accepted both jobs with open arms.”

Mennsfield said he prefers working at the high school level because of how simple it is for him to form connections with his students because they are more mature than his middle school students.

“I honestly have always wanted to teach at the high school level,” Mennsfield said. “Starting out at the middle school [level] really helped groom me to begin working here. Being at the high school, I communicate better with my students.” 

Mennsfield takes pride in being an African American art teacher and wants to inspire minorities to connect with art the way he does. 

“I haven’t really seen many African American male or female art teachers,” Mennsfield said. “Being a minority art teacher says a lot; being able to express myself and show other young minorities they can do this themselves means a lot to me.”

Mennsfield said the most important part of his job is to form meaningful connections with students. 

“I try to keep myself pretty transparent so my students can fully understand me; I’m just like them except older,” Mennsfield said. “I get where my students are coming from when they don’t take this class seriously; I get that everybody here doesn’t have the same goal. I want to get my students to make this art class personal to them. I want them to make the most out of the 18 weeks they’re in this class.”