Art Teachers


Exploring this Job

Talk to your art teachers about their careers. Ask them what they like and dislike about the career, what they studied in college, and how they landed their first job, among other questions. You can develop your own teaching experience by volunteering at a community center that offers art classes or working at a summer art camp. And, of course, take as many art classes as you possibly can.

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The Job

Art teachers work in schools, community centers, and museums around the country. Much of the details about their job depends on the age level for which they teach.

In the first and second grades, art teachers cover the basic art skills: drawing, coloring, and identifying pictures and colors. With older students, teachers may introduce new materials and art procedures, such as sketching still life or working with papier-mâché. To capture attention and teach new concepts, they use arts and crafts projects and other interactive activities. Although they are usually required to follow a curriculum designed by state or local administrators, teachers study new learning methods to incorporate into the classroom, such as using computers to create and manipulate artwork.

Secondary school art teachers teach students more advanced art concepts, such as ceramics and photography, in addition to basic studio art. Though secondary teachers are likely to be assigned to one specific grade level, they may be required to teach students in surrounding grades. For example, a secondary school art teacher may teach illustration to a class of ninth graders one period and advanced photography to high school seniors the next.

In the classroom, secondary school art teachers rely on a variety of teaching methods. Because their students are more mature, they often integrate lectures about artists, procedures, and art history in with studio time. This lecture time also may include opportunities for student discussion about famous works and their own artwork. Secondary art teachers may also show films and videos, use computers and the Internet, bring in guest speakers, and organize field trips to enhance learning and keep students engaged in the subject.

Some art educators teach art at community centers, day care centers, juvenile detention centers, and other nonacademic settings. They might teach beginning drawing to a group of eight-year-olds, ceramics to high school students, or an advanced digital photography class to adults. Art teachers who work in these settings typically work part time, although some full-time positions are available.

All art teachers devote a fair amount of time to preparation outside of the classroom. They prepare daily lesson plans and assignments, grade papers, tests, and artwork, and keep a record of each student's progress. Other responsibilities include communicating with parents, advisers, or students through written reports and scheduled meetings, ordering art supplies, keeping their classroom orderly, and decorating desks and bulletin boards to keep the learning environment visually stimulating. They also continue to study alternative and traditional teaching methods, as well as art techniques, to hone their skills.

Most elementary and secondary art teachers are contracted to work 10 months out of the year, with a two-month vacation during the summer. During their summer break, many continue their education to renew or upgrade their teaching licenses and earn higher salaries. Teachers in schools that operate year-round work eight-week sessions with one-week breaks in between and a five-week vacation in the winter.