Why Teach Art

“Miss Alkire, are you going to be here next year?”

I've heard this many times. It’s words like these coming from my students that reinforce why I am a teacher. You can hear it in their voice. Sometimes students, kids, just want someone to be their advocate, so I answer with a big smile and in the most reassuring tone I can muster without breaking into tears, "I will definitely be here next year, so you had better be in my class!"

“Ms. Alkire, why did you decide to become an art teacher?”

This is another question that I hear often in my room, especially when we begin discussing careers in art. So of course I have to tell THE story. It’s the ultimate origin story! The best beginning to the best career! Cue flashback and dramatic soundtrack.

I was a sophomore in high school and just had a terrible experience in an Art II Drawing class. I’ve never been a disrespectful student, but the way the teacher treated me and disrespected my work was unbearable. So I did what any self-respecting good student would do ... I walked out. I was so angry that I walked out the door and over to my Intro to Art instructor from the previous year. She talked me down and then suggested that I transfer to ceramics with Mrs. Sherman.

Mrs. Sherman changed my life. I went from a quiet and shy girl who was afraid to express her thoughts and emotions to a true artist. I had never felt so safe and comfortable in any classroom. She encouraged me, made me laugh, and listened to what I had to say. She made such an impact on me as a person that I spent the next three years in ceramics with her, and in my senior year I worked the system so that I could take an independent study class with her because Ceramics IV wouldn’t work with my schedule. She treated her students with respect and let us express ourselves creatively through clay. Her class was the only one I would go above and beyond for as a student.

Having a collective of creative people around me has contributed greatly to my success as an art teacher. Being a part of ATPE, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, has opened doors for me to have many more professional connections as well. I have met so many creative people through their organization who have inspired me to go above and beyond in the classroom so that I can better service my students and my artistic community at school.

Mrs. Sherman is the reason I changed my mind about studying paleontology and instead enrolled in an art education program. She is the type of teacher that I am still striving to become, even now after six full years of teaching. I desire for my classroom to be a place of refuge, a place where students can dream, a place where they can be themselves and express unsaid words with paint and canvas. I don’t think Mrs. Sherman knows how much her lessons and kindness really meant to me.

I've just begun my seventh year of teaching, and I can’t believe how time has flown. I see a few of my previous students here and there and am so proud that many are continuing in the arts programs at their high school and how excited they are to tell me they are still drawing and still dreaming.

Tell me, why do you teach?

Alex Alkire teaches for Irving ISD and writes the blog “Come to the Art Side.” Check it out!

Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE.

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