When I was five years old, my mother went back to teaching art at an elementary school in the district where I lived. We invited my friends over to create art projects my mom was developing for her classes. At my house, the kitchen table wasn't just for meals, it was our art room. We even had special tablecloths and smocks to wear. Everyone always wanted to come over and learn from one of the very best art teachers (of 32 years!), not that I am biased!
As a young child, the message was that I should “Be an art teacher.”
Growing up I helped my mom frame artwork, create bulletin boards and organize art supplies. I spent many days volunteering at Kilmer Elementary School. I didn't know it at the time, but I was unconsciously learning classroom management skills, scaffolding, differentiated learning, collaboration, material management and many other imperative teaching skills.
Again, the life lesson was, “Be an art teacher.”
Like most teenagers, I resisted being anything like my mother. Well, to be fair, I still went to the same college, joined the same sorority and studied in the same Fine & Applied Arts College, though not Art Education. Not yet, anyways! Instead, I went on to earn my BFA in Industrial Design and worked as an Art Director and Graphic Designer.
Whenever I expressed that my work projects weren’t creative, my mom would say, “Be an art teacher.”
If I felt unfulfilled at work, her advice was, “Be an art teacher.”
No matter what the issue, her solution always pointed to, “Be an art teacher.”
Finally, after hearing that since I was five and all throughout my life, I decided to go to graduate school to “Be an art teacher.”
It was spring and past the application deadline for all the schools in the Chicagoland area that offered a Master’s program in Art Education. Never to be one to take no for an answer, I called the admissions office at Columbia College Chicago and they let me apply! I was immediately accepted.
I thrived at Columbia. I took advantage of every single opportunity. Running for President of NAEA? Yes! Volunteer to teach a teen program at the Art Institute of Chicago? You bet! Speak at a national convention? Of course! Create a fundraiser for IAEA? Obviously!
Then it came time to observe art classrooms and find cooperating teachers for student teaching. I wanted high school the most, so I did my research and found out that District 219 was the first general education public high school district ever to be recognized as the #1 Fine and Performing Arts Education Program in the Nation by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I saw that as another opportunity to learn from the best!
I began observing and volunteering at Niles North. The lead art teacher said they weren’t taking student teachers. I came back anyway. Then I came back again. Guess where I student taught?? Yep, that’s right, Niles North!
Luckily there was a job opening at the end of my student teaching and I seamlessly transitioned from student teacher to full time visual art teacher. I was going to “Be an art teacher!”
Now I am in my 10th year teaching all levels and grades including AP 2D and 3D Art and Design. I am our department’s Literacy Liaison and leader on the Wellness Committee. My professional development experiences span 63 post graduate credits including AP workshops, equity trainings, pedagogical courses and content classes in France, Boston, Michigan and Illinois. I still lean into growth opportunities, including virtual teaching. I curate material kits, use overhead cameras for live demonstrations and film videos for asynchronous learning. My students are following the same curriculum virtually as they were before. I am proud!
Why am I looking for a new job if everything is wonderful? My district is diverse and supportive. I love it, but I want to pursue a long rooted dream of moving to another place. I look forward to thriving in another school and another city because all I need to do is “Be an art teacher.”