An education, in which a student has hands-on engaging experiences through the diverse applications and mediums that can be holistic and well rounded, is immeasurable. Educating not only the fundamental basics, but also giving a varied introduction to the details that makes the world interesting and unique. If enriching a child’s education through non-traditional methods is something that you find compelling, a career as an art teacher might speak to you.
The first step in your education is to research your states’ requirements for becoming a licensed teacher. All states require a bachelor’s degree to become a teacher, but each state has its own guidelines for the specific content of the degree. There are two pathways that are most common.
Complete an education degree, with an emphasis in art. If your state requires teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in education, you develop an area of specialty with your coursework. Each state will establish a credit hour requirement that will tell you how many hours of study you need to have in your specialty area, credit hour requirements typically range from 30 to 45.
Complete a post-graduate credentialing program. In some states, any bachelor’s degree can lead to a teaching career by completing a post-baccalaureate credentialing program. If your bachelor’s degree is not specifically in art, your state may require you to complete courses in art in order to be qualified in the subject.
If you have an existing bachelor or master’s degree in the arts, your state may offer an alternative track for you. Some states have an endorsement process that allows individuals who complete art degrees to use them to fulfill the education requirement. A state may still require applicants for endorsement credentials to completion a secondary credentialing process to learn education principles and practices.
Educations also vary depending on the type of teaching you want to do. Multiple subject credentials allow a graduate to teach in elementary schools, and single-subject credentials allow a graduate to teach in middle or high-schools. While learning education theory and practical instruction guidelines are required of all teachers, the orientation of these subjects is different for different ages and the education programs are oriented to ensure that a graduate is well-qualified both for the subject and grades he or she wishes to teach. Additionally, the instruction of art as a subject and as an activity area varies depending on the age being taught, and your education will be organized to give you the tools to teach art to the proper age effectively.
It is important to ensure that the college program you are considering will meet your state’s guidelines. Research the programs you’re considering and make sure that it offers a state approved teacher credentialing program, and, if required, is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
2. Take the Required Teaching Exam
In almost all states, passing a competency test is required to receive a license to be a teacher. There are two types of tests:
A basic skills test. These examinations are designed to assess a starting teacher’s competency in the areas of reading, writing, general information, and may include education theory and practices.
A subject area test. These tests are designed for teachers who are pursuing credentials in specific areas. Subject area examinations are specific to the specialty area a teacher has studied – to become an art teacher you’ll need to pass specialty area testing in art and art instruction.
Actual test requirements are determined by the states. Some states have developed their own assessments, while many other states use the Praxis examinations. Praxis is a national testing organization that offers both basic skills tests and specialty area testing in many subject areas, including art. In both circumstances, the testing may be multi-part. A state may require several components of basic skills testing as well as several areas of subject testing in the area of art. States may also require a candidate to take supplemental testing in state-specific education guidelines, or education theory.
Testing requirements can vary depending on the specific type of license a teacher is attaining. Multiple-subject credentials, those that allow a teacher to teach elementary grades, may only require the basic skills tests. Single subject-credentials may require a candidate to complete both the basic skills and subject area tests.
3. Get Your Classroom Experience
Teaching is a hands-on profession. It happens with real children in real situations. When a teacher is learning the profession, nothing can duplicate the experience that working in a classroom can provide.
All degree programs in education that lead to a teaching license or credential require a student teaching experience. Student teaching experiences typically happen later in a teacher certification program, once much of the practical coursework has been completed. Specific program requirements vary, but most have a minimum GPA requirement for education coursework, and some require that examinations (either state, program specific or Praxis examinations) be passed before the student teaching experience can begin.
Student teaching experiences are geared toward a candidate’s credential goals, so multiple-subject credential candidates will have much of their experience with younger grades, and single-subject credential students will be placed in positions in middle or high-school grades. However, some programs may require a teaching student to have some experience in all age areas and student teaching placements may have more variety.
The goal of student teaching experiences is to cultivate specific skills in a teaching candidate by pairing them with a senior or mentor teacher and allowing them to put learned concepts into practice.
Skill areas targeted in student teaching experiences include:
Applying education practices in a classroom environment
Progression of classroom responsibility
Data recording and distribution
A student teacher in the area of art will learn the practical aspects of:
Assigning art activities
Teaching the creative process
Grading art assignments fairly
Teaching the history and impact of art
Teaching art as an aspect of expression
Teaching art appreciation and critique
Teaching mediums and materials
Each program establishes its duration requirement for the student teaching experience. Programs range from 300 to 500+ hours of student teaching experience, and most programs state a minimum percentage of those hours that must actual classroom instruction. A student teacher in the area of art will find that they get to learn the real experience of teaching art to children in an authentic way, while having the benefit of a mentor teacher behind them.
4. Get the right Teaching License
All states require that a teacher be licensed, credentialed, or certified. While the name for the process may vary from state to state, the requirements are similar:
Complete the necessary education.
Pass the required tests.
Complete the state’s application process.
While the specific process and forms are set individually by each state, many of the steps are the same, and all states in the US have a department of education or comparable governing board for teachers. These departments oversee the licensing or certification of teachers and ensure that all requirements are met. Steps that your state may include in its application process are:
Completing the state’s specific application
Mailing certified copies of your transcripts to the state board
Sending testing scores to the state board
Completing a background check
Registering your fingerprints with the state
Sending letters of recommendation
Paying an application fee
If you are already licensed in a different state, or are getting a teaching credential through an endorsement program, the steps may be different.
In most states, licenses (or certifications or credentials) expire in two to four years, and a renewal process must be completed in order to continue teaching in a public school.
Some art teachers may choose to pursue supplemental credentials or certifications to improve their abilities, and to make them more desirable candidates for available positions. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (www.nbpts.org), for example, offers a national certification in the area of art that communicates a sophisticated understanding of both the subject, and the necessary principles to teach it. Other advanced credentials are available for the dedicated art education professional.
5. Stay in-tune with Art Teacher Education
Once you’ve completed your education and are working as an art teacher, it’s important to maintain your education and training, both in the area of art and as an educator. Art is a dynamic medium and is ever changing, and understanding of education and the learning process is constantly growing. Continuing education allows a teacher to stay current with trends in his or her specialty area, and learn about new research in the area of teacher and teacher efficacy.
Many states require that teachers continue learning throughout their careers by establishing continuing education requirements for license renewal. The specific requirement is set by each state, but 10 to 12 hours per year is common. States may require that continuing education courses be taken through providers that have met certain requirements. Check any courses you are considering to make sure that the hours you spend in a class can be counted toward your license or certification renewal.
Continuing education also plays a critical role when government agencies – either at the state or federal level – implement broad changes in policy. Continuing education courses can be invaluable to give a teacher the necessary tools and procedures to implement changes effectively.
You can also stay current in the area of art instruction and network with other art education professionals by joining one of the many organizations that support professional teachers. The National Art Educators Association (www.arteducators.org) or The National Education Association (www.nea.org) are both organizations that seek to allow teachers and other education professionals to continue learning and growing, to look forward to a long career of providing excellent learning experiences to the children they teach.