November 16, 2018

Tree Talk: Katie Shapiro ’01

Welcome to Tree Talk, a new column in which our beloved Tree Corbett interviews Oakwood alumni! For our first installment, Tree interviewed Katie Shapiro, who graduated from Oakwood in 2001 and is currently a part-time photography teacher at the Secondary School.

Enjoy the interview, and find also below a bio of Tree that features her long-time connection to Oakwood School.

Katie rock climbing, as immortalized in the Oakwood yearbook.

Tree: How long did you attend Oakwood?

Katie: From 6th grade to 12th grade, so 7 years.

Tree: What did you love most about Oakwood as a student?

Katie: I loved how strong the arts were as part of the curriculum. I was so drawn to photography, painting and drawing, and I loved that it was such a heartbeat of the school.

Tree: What did you dislike the most about Oakwood as a student?

Katie: I think the normal things teenagers don’t like: the social pressures, the hard part of growing up, being in middle school! But the teachers were always there to guide you along even when you were having a hard time.

Tree: When did you find your passion for photography?

Katie: It was actually in middle school when I took the intro to photography class with Amy Russell. I took to it like a sponge. It was such a satisfying art to me and I found endless joy and fascination with it.

Tree: Talk about your career path.

Katie: Well, when I left Oakwood I headed across the country to Bard, not exactly an art school, but an arts heavy school. What I really wanted to do was go to art school. So, after my second year, I stopped attending Bard and applied to CalArts and CCA, two art schools in California. I ended up at CalArts and when I arrived, I finally felt like I was at home. I felt like I was surrounded by people like me. After CalArts I worked for an artist for 6 years, and in the middle of that attended the University of California at Irvine for my MFA (Masters in Fine Art). After completing my studies there, I started at Oakwood and made a full circle teaching back where my passion started!

Tree: What’s your favorite project or piece you’ve ever done and why?

Katie: Probably the project I did in Banff, Canada called The Great Divide. It was a challenging project both mentally and physically, I took huge hikes and even helicopters to get to special locations for my project. It commenced in my having my first solo show in Los Angeles at the Kopeikin Gallery.

Tree: What drew you teaching?

Katie: The students. Also, the flexibility. It works well with the artist life and allows me the time to work on my own work, especially during the summers.

Tree: What do you love most about Oakwood as a teacher?

Katie: Again, the students. The kids here are so special, smart, and talented. I feel so lucky to teach such amazing kids.

Tree: What do you do for fun?

Katie: I hang out with my 1-year old, my husband and our dogs and cats. We go on hikes and vacations. We love going to the beach.

Tree: Do you have any upcoming projects/shows?

Katie: I do—I actually have my second solo show Moab opening at the Kopeikin Gallery on November 10. The show will be up until December 22.

For more information about Katie’s show, visit:

I came to Oakwood in 1997 with the name Tree, given to me by my best friends in 1963. My journey to Oakwood was a destined adventure that began in Sherman Oaks in 1996. I was working as a receptionist for a real estate office and it was there that I met my best friend, Maryanne Navickas, who was working for an agent. I was 46-years old and had recently lost my best friend, Raymond Taylor, the father of my two beautiful children.

Sadly, Maryanne decided to move to Texas but not before setting up an interview for me at Oakwood. She knew several Oakwood families and believed it would be a better fit for me, a place where I belonged. Barbara Karsh, the head of human resources, and the principal Bruce Musgrave agreed.

By January of 1997, I was working at the front desk and getting to know my first senior class. More than 20 years later, I could probably tell you a story about every student since that first year. I’m still in love with my Oakwood family—families, students, and the best teachers in the world, and I’m still here answering the phone—“Oakwood School, this is Tree.”

—Tree Corbett