Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Journey Into Art

I'm an art teacher. Some days I have to pinch myself to be sure it's not all a dream. Once you read my story you'll see what I mean. I was 34, married and had two children when I lost my job with AT&T due to massive layoffs. I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and become a teacher. I chose to major in math. Why I chose math I don't really know because math and I didn't add up. ;) So I changed my major and decided to get my degree in elementary education. I was told to get my kindergarten endorsement too as it would help get me interviews.

Kindergarten? You've got to be kidding! That idea was the furthest thing from my mind. But my first job as a teacher was teaching kindergarten. I taught that grade level for 8 years. After that I taught a multi-age class for 2 years and was scheduled to teach a 1st grade class the following year. Then came the opportunity that changed my professional life.

I'm being honest when I say that teaching art was even further from my mind than was teaching kindergarten. But our district had grown and all three elementary schools had to add specialist to cover the increasing need for teacher planning time. Our school staff had a meeting and ideas for the fourth building specialists were discussed. In the end, my building decided on a fine arts program (over math or science enrichment) and my name was suggested to develop it.

Oddly enough, I had to think about a week before accepting the job offer. I would no longer have a classroom of my own as I would be teaching off a cart. That idea didn't appeal to me. But after encouragement from others, I accepted.

In the beginning, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. My program was known as Fine Arts and under that rubric I included many activities such as drawing, painting, poetry, creative story writing, story telling, puppetry, and music (sing*a*long songs).

After 5 years on the cart our building underwent a major rebuild (1/2 the building was torn down and completely rebuilt while the other half gutted and remodeled. As a result, I got a classroom of my very own!

Within the first two years of having my own classroom, the pressure of Washington State Standards began to show its face. I'll talk more about my journey with the Standards later. Slowly at first, I began teaching more and more just in the visual arts discipline.

When I first began teaching art at the elementary level, I began with just my basic education degree (I also have a Master's Degree). I have no formal art training and do not hold a special endorsement in art. As I said earlier, I never intended to teach art. However, in the past ten years I have taken many art related courses and have immersed myself in learning about art. The more I learn, the more I fall in love with teaching art. I just finished a course based on Eric Jensen's excellent book Arts With The Brain In Mind. I'll share more about this class in upcoming posts.

This year marked my tenth year as an art teacher. There is nothing like it. I am confident you will enjoy seeing the art my students have produced and I hope you will appreciate my approach to teaching art. I have much to share and hope you will find some of the lesson plans useful in your classrooms.

I'm a very lucky man. I have a family I love, two adorable granddaughters, and a job that I love to go to each and every day. I love to paint, draw, and do all sorts of crazy art projects. I am fortunate that I have a kiln in my room and lots of materials for clay projects. Each day is an adventure and I am always amazed at the beautiful creations my students produce. I hope you'll stay tuned as I share my experiences with all of you.



  1. Looking forward to seeing and reading more from you, Dan. I have been teaching art for about 8 years now, and love it! I received my BFA in ceramics/sculpture/jewelry/metals and a BS in Art Education in 2001, and have had a fairly wonderful experience in my profession so far. Hoping it continues in that vein.
    Anyway, I too have a blogspot blog. It is mjhsartrats.blogspot.co. Check it out if you'd like. I don't update like I should, but I hope to do better in the coming months. I will be posting at the end of July about my upcoming student trip to Italy and Spain. I am really excited about it!
    Anyway... good luck with the blog!

  2. Thanks, I will check out your blog.

  3. Hey Dan, we are on the art ed yahoo group, although I don't post much... anyway when I read this, I thought I was reading about me!! I thought I was the only fool teaching art w/out an art degree...not that your a fool..LOL I started my teaching career in the 3rd grade 10 yrs ago also... I was an art major in college but switched to elem ed, b/c I couldn't get a job teaching art until 2004 when it was mandated by the state of arkansas!! so here I am, and like you i feel sooo lucky to have this great job...b ut yes the Dc standars and lack of support from my admin are stiffling!! anyway hi, and the best.... Teri

  4. That's good to know Teri! Thanks for sharing. It took me a week to say yes to the job offer! I can't believe I waited that long. I plan to share some of my experiences after a few of my introductory remarks. I hope you find some things useful.