Home is where the art is

Art history professor Ramela Abbamontian poses in the Art Garden on April 20, 2017 at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. Photo by Jose Herrera

The afternoon sun is high, the breeze strong, creating a scenic and relaxing atmosphere in the Fine Arts Plaza at Pierce College. Art history professor, Ramela Abbamontian, sits at a bench  in the middle of native Californian plants and metal sculptures, a mauve puffer jacket protecting her from the wind.

Her eyes are bright, glancing around the plaza that has become her second home. She has dedicated an entire decade to art department, working tirelessly to inject life and knowledge into her teaching to inspire her students to fall in love with art and learning.

“I love how student-based and student-focused this college is,” says Abbamontian.  “I’m teaching what I love. My classes are all very interactive, and I’m always looking forward to our discussions because the information I teach is old, and yet it’s very new and constantly changing.”

It takes her around 20 minutes to drive to her dream job here at Pierce. She is thankful that she didn’t have to search very far to pursue her dream of teaching.

“I am a believer, and I have such faith that God put this perfect package in my lap,” Abbamontian says. “It is a true gift.”

Abbamontian attended UCLA for all of her higher education, from her Bachelor’s Degree to her Ph.D. It was there that she discovered her desire to become a teacher.

“My professor, Dr. Albert Boime, was a prominent Social Art Historian,” Abbamontian says. “He was the one who inspired me to want to teach and research. I was in his class and thought, oh my goodness, he is having so much fun, and he cares so much about his students; this is great.”

Abbamontian had her eyes set on teaching at a community college since attending grad school at UCLA.

“I read an article about the joys and experiences of teaching in community colleges,” Abbamontian says.  “I kept that article. That was when I decided that this was the place I wanted to be,” Abbamontian says.

Working so hard for so long would burn out a professor’s drive for teaching, but Abbamontian enjoys every moment, even though her workload can overflow into her personal life.

“My favorite thing about working here almost every day are the discussions we have in class about the works of art,” Abbamontian says. “Students will say something in class that will ignite another side of analysis that I hadn’t thought of before. It keeps me on my toes.”

Mariah Shandra, a 22-year-old fine arts major, is an art history tutor and former student of Abbamontian.

Shandra loved how passionate Abbamontian is about everything- not just teaching. Shandra says that Abbamontian is a kind, caring, and hands-on type of professor.

“She wants her students to succeed even more than they do. And she’s very interested in student feedback,” Shandra says.

When Abbamontian leaves campus, much of her work still follows her home. As a wife and mother of three children under 10 years old, she has other passions in life aside from teaching. When she is not spending time with her family, she loves to play basketball, visit art museums, and read, if time permits.

“I value health so much,” Abbamontian says. “You can work hard for your life purpose and your family, but health is important. If you don’t have good health, you can’t do any of that.”

When work does require her attention outside of Pierce, she can often be found in her home office, grading or working on lesson plans alongside her husband, who is also an educator.

“It’s nice to have that support at home,” says Abbamontian. “My husband and I can compare notes, and I ask for his advice on my class activities all the time.”

Abbamontian moved to America with her family when she was 8 years old.  Her family had moved from Lebanon, to Montreal, to Iran, all in hopes of avoiding the political persecutions plaguing the area at the time.

“It was challenging, coming here and living in a new country, new language, new everything,” Abbamontian said. “But, my childhood cultivated my love of travel.”

She is grateful for the sacrifice that her father had taken in order to give her the best future she could ever ask for.

Sara Lexington, 18, is a theater major taking art history at Pierce College.

“It’s really difficult to study art sometimes, because it is so intricate.”

Abbamontian started working at Pierce in the spring of 2007, this spring is her 10th anniversary on campus.

“I still feel so new, and yet I feel like I’ve been here forever,” Abbamontian said.

Abbamontian is happiest at her hilltop “home” in the Fine Arts Plaza at the tip-top of the staircase here at Pierce College. Teaching at Pierce has enriched her life and she works just as hard to pay it all back.

“I love helping people,” says Abbamontian. “Since childhood, I have cultivated a love for other people, a love to help others. I’m so happy that I can do that by working here.”