Monday, March 18, 2013

Why and How I became an Art Teacher *warning* long post!

It was third grade and I was in Ms. Grey's class.  I went to McClure Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. For the first time in my short elementary history, I had art class.  I don't remember the name of the art teacher, but I do remember the absolute joy I felt every time she would come to our class.  She would roll her cart into our classroom and I would hang on her every word and anticipate the moment she would begin handing out supplies.

  One lesson was a watercolor landscape lesson.  I remember painting the trees, the sky, the ground, the fence.  I loved my painting.  When the paintings had dried, Mrs. Grey hung them around the room.  I remember she would always hang the ones she liked the best on the class door.  My painting didn't make the cut, but I didn't care, I loved it and couldn't wait for our Art Cart teacher to see it when she came back the next week.  When the Art Cart teacher came back the next week, she announced that she would be choosing art work to compete in a state competition.  The winners would have their art work exhibited at the State Capitol and would be presented an award and get to meet the Governor.  At the end of class she looked at our finished paintings.  As she walked around the room, I thought I wouldn't have a chance at being chosen, after all my work wasn't even on the door!  But, she stopped at my work and announced she would be entering it in the competition.  I was so excited!  Me?  My work?  A few weeks later, Art Cart Teacher came back to class and this week she came to announce that my work had won!  I would have my work on exhibit at the State Capitol and I would meet the governor!  I don't remember all the details of the competition, but I do know that moment changed me forever.  It validated what I already knew, I was an ARTIST!  A real artist with a work of art on exhibit. 

My family and me when I was around 2nd grade

My watercolor painting from third grade.

That is me, peering over my painting in Topeka at the Capitol.
From that moment on, I lived to create.  I doodled, painted, sculpted everyday.  My family moved the next year to Rogers, Arkansas and my new school had no art program.  I was devastated.  My parents hired a neighbor to teach my sister and me art lessons once a week in our home.  My dad was a minister and my mom a school teacher.  Looking back, I realize they nurtured my talent even when financially it wasn't easy.  We lived in Rogers for two years and then my parents were called to be foreign missionaries in Seoul, South Korea. 

We moved to Seoul in the middle of my sixth grade year.  I attended Seoul Foreign School, an English speaking college preparatory school that was so far advanced I felt as if I had skipped two grades.  The only place I ever felt successful or comfortable was in the art room.  I shined in there!  I loved art at SFS.  My teacher was Korean and I remember learning all kinds of new techniques and using all types of new tools.  During the middle of my seventh grade year, my dad became very ill and at the same time, my grandfather had a massive stroke in the States.  I remember my parents getting us out of class a few days before winter break and telling us that we had to go to the States because Grandpa King was dying.  We left that day on a flight back to Arkansas.  I didn't know it at the time, but that was the last time I would see my new friends, attend art in my new school, or stand on the soil of a country I had grown to love. 

When we got to Arkansas, my grandpa died three days before Christmas.  My dad had gotten sicker and they found a tumor.  It was benign, but his illness was severe and we found out we would not be returning to our life in Seoul.  We would not be returning to Korea.  We were in limbo...  My parents moved us close to family in Arkansas and my dad went through several medical treatments to heal his body.  I felt lost.  The only good thing was the school I attended for a few months that year in Little Rock, Arkansas was a 7th through 12th grade high school campus and I was able to be in an Art I class with high school students.  A few months later, my dad would travel back to Korea for a few days alone to pack up our things and ship them back to the Sates.

 We moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas and I attended Lakeside Junior High for eighth and ninth grade.  The best part was our Art room!  It was located down the hill from the main campus in a old building with high ceilings, wood floors and large windows.  There were couches and tables and it was comfortable.  I loved that art class!  The end of ninth grade brought new changes once again. 

We moved to Hendersonville, TN, a suburb of Nashville.  Tenth and eleventh grade art class was not as inspiring as what I had experienced up to this point.  I felt like our teacher just didn't care.  The summer before my senior year, I asked my parents if I could change high schools and go to the other one in town.  I knew of its art department and I knew it was where I belonged.  I had moved around all my life, so one more school wasn't going to faze me!  I loved the art teacher at Hendersonville High School.  I thrived once again.

When I entered college, I declared an art education major.  I attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  It was where my parents had attended and even though it wasn't an art college, I felt it was the right place for me to be.  After my junior year, it was clear I would not graduate on time if I continued with my major, so I dropped the art and went straight Elementary Education.  I regret that decision, but it's our mistakes that make us who we are.

 After graduating, I got a job teaching sixth grade in Crowley, Texas at the same school I attended kindergarten and first grade and the same principal was still there!  Art was not an elective in our school, only PE and Music, which was sad, but it gave me an opportunity to teach art lessons to my students. 

I got married and I was expecting my first child by the end of my first year teaching!  Crazy!  Anyway, we made the decision that I would stay home.  I stayed home for nine years.  I had a second child and when she went into kindergarten, I knew it was time to go back to work.  I studied and took the certification for art in Texas and begin applying for art jobs. 

I interviewed for an art position in Lewisville ISD and it went so well that the principal told me he would be calling HR when I left!  I was ecstactic!  It seemed all the pieces were falling into place!  He called me later that evening and told me that my certification results were not posted yet and wouldn't be for 4 weeks.  He needed to hire now and he couldn't wait.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Then, he offered me a 3rd grade position.  I needed the job.  I told him that my husband and I would pray on it.  The next morning I called him and accepted the position. 

I taught 3rd grade for one year, then moved to kindergarten for 5 years, then moved to 5th grade for a year.  This is where it gets interesting.  You see, I was settled.  I wanted to teach art, but it just didn't seem like it was ever going to happen. 

Then, one summer evening, my phone rang.  My mom was calling to tell me she had seen an art teacher position opened at a Elementary school in my district and the principal was a friend of mine from church.  I told her that those posts always get filled so fast and it takes a few days for the post to be deleted. 

The next day was a Sunday and who do you think I ran into at church?  That's right, Jennifer Mattingly, the principal.  I casually joked with her by saying to her, "Hey, I hear you have an art job opening, you know I'm art certified?"  Her response was, "I didn't know that, when are you coming in for an interview?"  I couldn't believe it!  I explained to her that we were flying out the next morning at 7am to go to Massachusetts and wouldn't be back for 2 weeks.  Her response was , "Well, let me call the music teacher and if she can come up to the school this afternoon, we can do an interview today."  What???  I didn't even have a resume!  Long story short, the music teacher said yes to interviewing me.  We met for 2 hours!  I left on my vacation and didn't hear a word from anyone for the first week of vacation.  I didn't think I had a chance at that point!  Then, the phone rang and it was HR offering me the job as Art teacher at McAuliffe Elementary!  I screamed, I cried, I prayed!  My dream was coming true!  It was something that I had wanted for so long and now it was coming true! 

When I got home from vacation, I had to say goodbye to one school, a place I was comfortable, a place I had friends, a place where I knew all the kids.  I had to move into a place that was new, a place where I knew nothing, a place where I would grow and learn. 

I contacted a friend that was an art teacher and she directed me to several art blogs and then I found Pinterest about two weeks before school started!  Art blogs and Pinterest saved me that first year.  I read anything and everything about teaching art that I could find.  I scoured the web for ideas, inspiration, tips, and lessons. 

I brought with me passion, a love of art, enthusiasm for learning new things, and a fearless attitude.  My first year was exhausting and rewarding.  I worked harder than I had ever worked before and I found that I woke up every morning excited about my job!
This is my second year in my position and I still find that same passion and excitement!  I love my job!
This year the teachers at my school all created Super Hero characters.  I am the Caped Creator.  My motto is "With Great Ideas Comes Great Creations"  Here is a picture of me and one of my new collegues, Mrs. Siske, a second grade teacher.


  1. I loved reading "your story". Brings back a lot of memories and shows how each move had meaning for you and for the family. You are a super teacher, whatever you teach, and art is your passion. I'm so glad we've all stuck together as a family, through all the moves, changes, highs and lows, grandkids, etc. There's not much I would change. God has given you your talent and blessed us all with each other. Yes, I did read your blog and will keep up with it from time to time. :)

  2. Also, I remember so well going to the Governor's House and sitting with you on the front row with your painting. When we moved, I put the painting in a bag to keep it safe and have never been able to find it. I think it got thrown away. I didn't know you had all the pictures; I'm so glad!