Staff Profile: Julia Schulman paints a bright future for her students

Julia+Schulman+sits+at+her+colorful+desk+in+her+classroom.

Shiyo Ohashi

Julia Schulman sits at her colorful desk in her classroom.

Julia Schulman has tattoos all over her body. She has frizzy hair and too many rings on her fingers to count. She has a poster hanging up in her classroom that reads: “you can’t rape a rifle, Mr. wolf.” 

Schulman has been an art teacher at Carlmont for fifteen years. But, as she emphasizes, it’s not that she ended up here, it’s the journey that led her to this point. 

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” Schulman said.

After graduating high school, she didn’t take the usual segway straight into college; instead, she took a gap year in Israel. She fell in love with the country, settled there, and became a citizen. She started illustrating and teaching part-time.

It sounded like a perfect life for someone as free-spirited and creative as her, but there was something missing. She moved back to The Bay Area to attempt to find that missing piece. She went to school for an English credential; hoping it’d help her secure a job.

So picture this: it’s the 1990s, in San Francisco, at a job fair. There are schools all around campaigning for teachers, there are lines everywhere. People are calling out – principals, parents, and prospective teachers. There’s only one table that’s empty, a little school from the East Bay. People whisper about that table: “You don’t want to go to that school,” they say. “That school is awful. The worst in the district. You don’t want to stand there.” 

Schulman stands there anyways, a red-haired woman with an English credential, four years of art school, and a spirit as fiery as her hair. The principal doesn’t even bother to show up, but she calls them the next day, interviews, and then gets the job. 

“When I started, I had a part-time job teaching at a Jewish home for the elderly and one of the women patients there, I used to bring her every day to the art room to teach art, and she thanked me so much for saving her life because she didn’t think she had anything left to live for. But the art had made her feel like she had something to live for again,” Schulman said. “And I was like, oh, why am I not teaching art?”

After that she left the school in the East Bay and secures a job at Carlmont, teaching art.

“I know I can be tough on my students sometimes,”  Schulman said. “And I hope they know it’s because I want them to be better, I want them to fall in love with art. I want them to push themselves into the best artist they can be.”

Julia Schulman’s depictions of victims of police brutality for the BLM movement. (Taken from @schulman.art)

Schulman does not conform. She knew what she wanted and she worked for it until she got it. This is evident in her teaching style.

“I think Mrs. Schulman is one of my favorite teachers,” sophomore Anya Mele said. “I love being in her class and I love the energy there.” 

Schulman lets students eat in her class during lunch. They’re allowed to work on art, use any of the many supplies in the room, and make themselves tea or a sandwich. They’re allowed to curse, rant, or express their opinions. Her classroom is a safe space. 

Schulman is not just an art teacher, but a mother, mentor, and learner.

“Art has taught me perseverance, not being afraid to make mistakes. Being involved in the process more than the product and paying attention to the world around me, finding the beauty in everything,” Schulman said. “I think we all intrinsically have an artist inside of us, and I think it’s my job to help some people find theirs too.”