M-W photography teacher inspired by history of the Hudson Valley


Ms. Gitto setting up for student art critiques for her photography class.

Vivian Lown, Contributing Writer

Surrounded by inspiration and creativity, Ms. Gitto sees the world around her through a colorful lens.

As a photography teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School, she has had an appreciation for the art since high school when she took her first course in photography at Newburgh Free Academy. She admits, slightly embarrassed, that she took the class because she thought that was the cool thing to do, however, she fell in love with it immediately.

“I just felt most comfortable in the dark room,” said Ms. Gitto.

Residing in the Hudson Valley especially inspired her.

“Growing up, when people asked where I was from and I’d say Newburgh, they’d say ‘Ew’, or ‘I’m sorry,’” said Ms. Gitto.

As she has grown older, she has become proud to be part of the Newburgh community with lots of diversity and rich history. She quickly adds with a spark in her eyes, “It was one of the first cities to get electric light, did you know that?”

Her connection to the city grew as her time in it grew. She still remains in her childhood home. She has seen the city progress and regress time and time again, but she describes the past couple years as its renaissance and she loves to see it flourish.

“I have a lot of wonderful memories of childhood; I bring it up in my art now,” she said. Inspired by photography lessons of the past, she revives the ones she remembers loving to help teach her own students.

Ms. Gitto’s mind was not always on being a teacher, despite encouragement from her father. After she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at New Paltz and studied interior design at The Fashion Institute of Technology, she decided to take an education class. She discovered a passion for teaching and decided to pursue it. She now describes being a photography teacher as her “happy place”.

Emma Malabanan, a photography student said, “Ms. Gitto helped guide me through the art world. I’m only an art major because she encouraged me to do it.”

In her 27 years as an educator Ms. Gitto has no regrets coming to the high school after teaching in the middle school.

“I think a lot of times we get comfortable in what we know,” she said. “Pure joy” are the words she uses to convey her experience at the high school so far, understanding the importance of it in her journey.

Ms. Conklin, a co-worker of Ms. Gitto, and a fellow photography major in college, has known her for about 20 years.

“She approaches photography at a slightly different angle. She worked in photojournalism, where I did it as a fine art, so I look to her for her experience in that. She’s got a lot of real world experience working in the field of photography,” said Ms. Conklin.

Ms. Gitto describes her parents as loving and kind; they were a close-knit family from Long Island.

“Definitely my parents were my strongest influences, they had faith in me and taught me to have faith in myself, and were my biggest cheerleaders,” said Ms. Gitto.

A childhood dream Ms. Gitto fondly shared was her desire to be an actress but it was brushed away by the realization that she was too shy. She stayed busy during her childhood riding horses and taking ballet classes.

In her time outside of the school, she instructs pilates in Newburgh, teaching painting and pilates classes to kids. She says without hesitation this will be her next step after teaching photography. She tries to still incorporate her art form in her life. Outside of school, she films workshops on how to restore homes for Hudson Valley House Parts, which is an architectural salvage store in Newburgh.