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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

The influence of good teachers and mentors

Life with Loraine

I know I’ve briefly discussed in past articles that I made the leap from corporate to education this year. When people find out that I made that swap from the NFL to education I always get a response of wide eyes, raised eyebrows, or my favorite … “Why would do that?” I’ve had some great jobs. My work has been featured on major networks, buildings, billboards, and publications. As fulfilled as I felt—I knew something was missing. I wasn’t curing cancer, I was just making some really great art that I got to share with the world. But truth me told, as rewarding as it was in the beginning, it was starting to feel superficial and I wanted to desperately give back to my community, and todays youth. That is why I went into education.

I was so lucky to have some teachers that allowed me to be my authentic self in high school. I was a mediocre student academically, but artistically I thrived. In the back of my head I knew that. I had two amazing art teachers at Hammonton High School, Ken Drake, my sculpture teacher and Alice Cook my art teacher. They stayed late with me for a week my senior year and helped me prepare for college.

Loraine (center) with Mike McGarvey (left) and Hannah Ueno.

Back in the day you didn’t submit a portfolio digitally you actually took photos of your work, then you sent the photos out to be turned into slides. Then, you would take those slides and put them in sleeves and label your art pieces for your college of choice to view in a slide viewing machine. While I’m typing this I’m realizing how archaic it sounds. But, that’s not what the point is. The point is Ken and Alice will forever be a huge part of my life even though I was only with them both for 4 years in high school. Their push to help me succeed is what helped me get into college. Even though I switched schools twice before I landed at Stockton they pushed me to where I needed to be.

It’s been 17 years since I walked the halls of Stockton University (Richard Stockton College, then) as a junior in college majoring in fine art. Then, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do when I graduated and I was concerned about finding a job after graduation. During my time at Stockton I frequented the computer labs since most of my friends were design majors. When it was my turn take graphic and web design, I found the courses to be challenging. I had no problem getting straight A’s in my fine art courses but design was different. The creative process of ideating, sketching, and then designing was tough, but I had two professors (Hannah Ueno and Mike McGarvey) who worked with me to get better at design. They provided extra support by staying after class to help me code and design. Eventually Mike McGarvey navigated me towards majoring in visual communication.

This year when I decided to become a teacher I realized easy as I though it would be, it’s actually incredibly challenging. But, I’m staying the course because I believe if you work at your craft, you get better. I also believe challenge equals success so I know I’m going to get there. I was able to link back up with Hannah who joined our graphic design advisory board. She brought so many amazing ideas to me and my colleagues. She even opened up the doors of Stockton to our design students.

When I walked back into my alma mater and got to thank the two teachers who challenged me, and inspired me to become a designer, I got a little emotional. Without Hannah and Mike, I would have never worked for Miss America or the Philadelphia Eagles. They set me up for success by letting me make mistakes, testing my own hypotheses, and pushing me to think creatively to do my best. Hanna even hooked me up with my first freelance job of inserting different windows into doors for a Home Depot Catalog.

Loraine with her students on the steps at Stockton University.

At 41 years old I realize that God puts people in your life for a reason. We all have a path to greatness and I truly thank Ken, Alice, Mike and Hannah for navigating and fueling me to succeed by supporting me whole heartedly.

Now that I am an educator I realize that their compassion, dedication, and care is what made me switch my career. I hope I can be as wonderful as they were with me with my own students. I am learning education is not for the week. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. You’re going to have a few students you can’t reach but if I could have one student who I can help find their way and their path, well, that’s greater than any graphic I could ever create.

Loraine Griffiths is a fifth-generation Hammontonian, graphic designer, wife and mother of three. She can be reached through email at


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