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By TACP Staff on July 05, 2021
Few careers in the art world offer rewards and personal satisfaction afforded an art teacher. Passion transformed and converted into instruction is one of the most powerful tools in education. Whether the classroom is filled with aspiring college students or youngsters acquiring their first skills; transference of artistic talent through teaching is a gift worth having, and giving.
Art teachers are creative and talented professionals who teach students of all ages drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, and printmaking skills and techniques. In secondary school, they might also teach art history. Art teachers might show students how to use photographic darkrooms, kilns to fire sculpture, and other equipment. They plan lessons and organize projects to ensure all art supplies are available for students’ use. Sometimes art teachers will also arrange exhibitions of student artwork at school or in the community.
Art teachers must enjoy working with children, teenagers, or young adults, and have a love of art and high levels of creative and artistic talent. They should be able to motivate as well as encourage students, have great communication and organizational skills, be patient and open-minded and easygoing.
Art teachers must also be skilled with a wide range of materials, which may include paints, palette knives, and brushes, pencils, and charcoal, papers, canvases, clay, and dyes. When teaching art history or art theory, they may also use whiteboards or computers, especially when teaching digital art or grading and writing student reports.
In the simplest of terms, art teachers teach students about art, with a focus on inspiring and helping students to express themselves creatively. Many art teachers are practicing artists themselves. They have a passion for the field of art and education. Duties vary depending on the age or grade level of students. Some K-12 art teachers in public schools will work with students from kindergarten through high school, based on their certification. However, teaching at a private school, in an after-school program, community center, or art cooperative does not require certification.
At the elementary level, instruction is basic and meant to foster an interest in the arts and build skills. Students learn how to draw simple shapes, how to mix and incorporate colors, they work on different crafting projects, or make a pinch pot with clay. In middle and high school an art teacher will build on basic art techniques, while also introducing students to concepts in art history. They may also familiarize students with other visual mediums, such as photography, art theory, graphic design, and video. In high school, students who are artistically inclined are also encouraged to explore a career in art.
Art teachers who want to teach serious art students at the postsecondary level may want to explore a career as an art professor. It can be a very rewarding career in that you share your knowledge with aspiring artists while also continuing to work in your art form – the perfect combination. In the position, you will teach classes in your area of expertise, like painting or sculpture. You will also introduce students to new techniques and new mediums, teach studio classes and art history and art theory.
Although most art teachers teach in their own area of expertise, some may also teach dance or theater. They need good communication skills, must be able to work well in a team environment, and have superior time management and organizational skills. Art professors have a clear understanding of art at the postsecondary levels, why art belongs in a college curriculum and the many benefits of art. They must also have a passion for teaching and making their own art.
Little doubt that an art teacher does many tasks at once, such as teaching art techniques, setting op exhibitions, critiquing students work, advising students, grading students work, and departmental administrative jobs, but generally, an art teacher will guide students to find more innovative ways to make art. They will teach students to express their own individuality through art and expose students to different forms of art. In high school, art teachers will lead students to use a variety of mediums and techniques, and explore emerging technologies and tools, while encouraging and cultivating an enthusiastic appreciation of all forms of art.
Nearly all jobs for art teachers require a bachelor’s degree in art. Some schools will require a master’s degree, especially at the high school level. College and postsecondary art teachers must earn a master’s or doctorate in art. Art student/teachers usually choose to enroll in an art education program, which combines courses in the practice and theories of art and art history with courses in education that leads to attaining their teaching certification. Another path is to major in art while also completing a teacher preparation program.
At the elementary level, most states require art teachers to have earned a bachelor’s degree in education. Some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree within a certain timeframe after accepting a teaching position. Graduate programs require advanced coursework and may also offer a practicum or internship. To become a high school art teacher, students are required to earn a bachelor’s degree in art or art education, along with completing coursework in general education and a teacher assistant internship. Many programs allow aspiring art teachers to specialize in the grade level they wish to teach. Coursework may include learning issues, curriculum development, classroom management, human development, critical thinking, pupil assessment, and teaching resources. Students will also take studio classes in areas such as painting or life drawing, and are expected to create an art portfolio.
Prerequisites for an art professor are different than if teaching at the elementary, middle or high school levels. Most art professorships require a minimum of a master’s in fine arts with a concentration in a student’s chosen medium. Although not required, a doctoral degree increases a teacher’s competitiveness in gaining employment in a college or university setting. It should be noted that most art professors also have at least several years of professional experience in their specific field, such as photography, sculpture, or graphic arts.
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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that public school teachers must be licensed or certified in all 50 states, but that the requirements differ from state to state. Licensure is based on subject taught or grade level. To be eligible for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification, aspiring art teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and have a minimum of three years of experience (usually as a teaching assistant).
Most art teachers work in public or private schools throughout the US, with the highest levels of employment in colleges, universities, professional or private schools, junior colleges, and technical or trade schools. Some art teachers will find employment at a charter or magnet school, within programs that focus on the arts. Art teachers can also find employment at daycare centers, the YMCA, at summer camps, or an after-school program. Adult learning centers also hire teachers to teach art to their residents.
Some states also have programs called ‘artists-in-schools’ that provide opportunities for practicing artists to work in schools. They may offer one-day workshops or establish long-term relationships with a single school. They are not required to be licensed.
Art teachers can also teach classes and provide art demonstrations via online video presentations on sites like YouTube, CreativeLive and Lynda.com. The majority of these artists work as adjunct professors at colleges, teaching on a contract basis.
The average starting salary for a certified art teacher varies a great deal; anywhere from $40,000 to $47,000 per year. On average, charter and private school salaries are about $10,000 less than art teachers working in the public sector. Art teachers who have earned a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) can earn about $9,000 more than those holding a bachelor’s degree. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary art teachers can make upwards of $76,000 per year. Those working in technical or trade schools make slightly less, at about $60,000 per year. There were about 99,000 teachers (art, drama, and music) working in postsecondary positions in 2015, which is an increase of about 2.3 percent. Of course, salary varies based on education, geographic location, and by the school district, as well as state/school budgets.
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