With a history spanning five decades, two campuses, and tens of thousands of students, Pine View has evolved plenty since its inception in 1968. One of the few physical mainstays bridging Pine View’s past and present are its portables; ask any alum or current student, and all will have something to say about the portables’ intrinsic connections to the Pine View experience.
Come 2022 and the completion of Building 17, however, Pine View’s 42 portables will no longer be in use. Most portables will be relocated to other schools; given their age, portables one, three, and five will be removed and ultimately destroyed.
Adorning their sides are murals and paintings crafted by alumni during and after their tenures at the school. Their histories are immortalized below.
Elementary music teacher Kathy Shepler was no stranger to teaching in portables prior to coming to Pine View in 2007. Portable one has been home to a euphony of xylophones, drums, and glockenspiels ever since; before it became one of Pine View’s musical hubs, it was English and elementary school teacher Nancy Friedland’s.
Friedland started teaching in Portable One when Pine View moved to its current campus in 1994. She frequently incorporated art into her teaching; the aquatic mural adorning the portable’s side is one example of such work.
“Art always played a big part in my teaching, and my passion for art and music was always connected to the curriculum,” Friedland said in a text.
The mural was an artistic representation of their ocean ecology unit in science. Led and organized by professional artist and Pine View parent Judy Eidge, Friedland’s third-grade class of the 1993-1994 school year completed the piece in three sessions.
The sessions began with each child receiving an 18×24 piece of drawing paper that they used to sketch a sea creature. Eidge recalls friendly contention arising toward the start, with some students wanting to incorporate a squid but not having enough space on the paper provided. The six of them formed the Giant Squid Committee and created the squid together.
Eidge credits her experience with paint chemistry as the reason behind the mural’s vibrancy today.
“I did quite a few art projects with classes…Of all the projects I’ve done, this one went so smoothly. The children were just so ready to do it,” Eidge said.
Eidge’s daughter, Class of 2003 alumna Jacqueline Mazur, fondly looks back on the experience.
“I love Mrs. Friedland. She always was one of those teachers that was all about the hands-on experience, and I think that mural just goes to show exactly what I mean… When you get involved in a project like that, and you have the kids do the homework, learn about the creatures themselves in the ecosystem, and then paint it—it really solidifies it in their memories. It goes a step beyond, and she was that kind of teacher that didn’t just leave it to the books; she took it outside of the classroom,” Mazur said.
Home to Pine View’s newspaper, yearbook, and broadcast programs, journalism adviser Chris Lenerz’ portable three is often occupied past sundown, full of caffeinated, deadline-driven high-schoolers. Many years prior to Lenerz’ arrival, Portable Three was labeled as Portable Nine, and it was well-loved by elementary school teacher Cathy Wojtkun.
Wojtkun came to Pine View in the early nineties, back when it was still located by Alta Vista Elementary.
She credits the Educational Foundation as the financial backbone behind many of the projects she incorporated into her teaching, including the international research project that her fourth-grade class worked on in the 1995-1996 school year. Based on the theme “children learning about children,” students drew a country at random to study as part of Wojtkun’s social studies curriculum.
Wojtkun’s students were then tasked with designing, drawing, and painting a board depicting the culture of a child from that country. Beyond elements of social studies in the students’ research, the project incorporated aspects of other studies.
“There was so much that went into the actual teaching of the initial drawing. You had science, math, and sometimes, a lot of guessing,” Wojtkun said with a laugh. “I remember the project just being fun. It was very interesting learning how to show everyone that their painting would be a success, no matter what their artistic ability was.”
The students took about a week total on the project. After the works were complete, the paintings were displayed in a Sarasota convention center.
“I remember feeling like a cultural maiden because I painted a scene of Japan and then it was in an art gallery. My mom took me [to the gallery], and I remember wearing head to toe matching lavender denim because it was the ’90s,” alumna Adelaide Lee said.
After the gallery, the paintings were affixed to Wojtkun’s portable. Though Wojtkun and her former students aren’t sure when exactly it happened, the class incorporated their research into a World Fair, in which all the students dressed up in traditional garb from their country and experienced the country’s food.
Alumna Jamie Fish said that the paintings are “like a time capsule — a frozen moment in time that we’ve had the luxury of remembering forever.” Her painting was of the Philippines.
Pine View Class of 2004 alum Brett Kaplan worked on Argentina.
“It’s neat that [this project] has stood the test of time. I’m happy if it brings a little bit of joy to people and makes them wonder,” Kaplan said.
Known as Amy Li while in Wojtkun’s class, Dr. Simiao Li-Sauerwine, M.D., attended Pine View during her fourth-grade year. She researched India for the project.
“I have only a vague memory of doing the painting itself. But thinking back on it now, it’s so amazing that the painting got to hang up for so long. Even though I was only privileged enough to be at Pine View for one year, I was able to leave my mark,” Li-Sauerwine said.
Though now worn and faded, the paintings have stood the test of time and Florida weather. The presence at Pine View has extended far beyond their creators’ tenures at the school.
Wojtkun takes this revelation in stride. Ever humble, she extends her gratitude to the Educational Foundation and the students and parents who helped make the project possible.
Fish, Kaplan, Lee, and Li-Sauerwine all thank Wojtkun for the ways in which she has influenced their lives, with this project being just one manifestation of her impact.
“This project is just an example of a teacher who was empowered by a school to really give to her children and teach in a way that was outside of the box. Those pictures are a perfect manifestation of what she did and how successful she was doing that,” Fish said.
Portable five’s loudspeakers crackled to life one day in 2004, carrying a voice from the front office that announced to social studies teacher John Schweig that his son was being born. The room has been Schweig’s second home for over sixteen years. While former students’ visitor passes decorate the inside of the portable, Pine View Class of 2019 alumnus Pablo Gonzalez’s Mount Rushmore mural adorns the outside.
Gonzalez began attending Pine View in the fourth grade. He credits the art department with helping him foster his artistic abilities. Now double majoring in Communication Design and Culture and Media at Parsons School of Design, Gonzalez wanted to leave a mark on Pine View before leaving the school, given that he was at Pine View “for essentially my entire life,” he said.
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art portraits, Gonzalez knew he wanted to work with something colorful and based in American history.
“I think there’s a lot of beauty to American portraiture. I thought it was a great opportunity to incorporate an American symbol that can be interpreted in either a good or bad way. I didn’t want to go into too much of the social and political sides of it — I really just wanted it to feel fun,” Gonzalez said.
From stenciling to spray painting, the project took a week to complete after Gonzalez’ graduation. The summer heat and rain concerned Gonzalez at first, but the weather held off. His friends — Class of 2019 alums Alexa Hann, Colton Weitzel, and Javier Aramayo — helped him with the process, placing and holding the stencil on the portable while Gonzalez spray painted.
Though Gonzalez is sad to see the mural go, he said he “would absolutely love” to paint another mural on campus, if he were ever presented with the opportunity.
“This mural was really special. It was my first commission,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t have enough words to thank Mr. Schweig and Pine View in general for the opportunities that they gave me. Them allowing me to leave a little part of who I was on campus was something that I don’t think a lot of schools do.”
This article is linked to a QR code that appears in print on Dec. 17, 2021, Features, of The Torch with the headline: An Immortal Portable.