The Art of Teaching Art

FACULTY GUEST BLOGGER: Ann Marie Castelgrande, Professor of Art Education

Ann Marie Castelgrande: A teacher is someone who imparts knowledge or skill. An art teacher is someone who does all that and more. He/she is someone who helps a student to develop creative thinking, self-awareness, problem solving, artistic skills, and much more. A K-12 art educator must know education theory, how to work with all levels of learning (including special needs students and English Language Learners), plus disciplining without stifling creativity, as well as developing lessons to challenge each child to express themselves and enjoy the art of creating. Whew!

I choose to be a K-12 art educator because I had an inspirational art teacher in junior high and fell in love with teaching the minute I stepped into a high school art room and observed a highly energetic and talented art educator, Sr. Cor Immaculatum Heffernan. Happily, teaching K-12 was my career for 35 years, enlightening children about visual art and along the way, the students also enlightened me.

Children’s work has always amazed me. Their work was, for the most part,  uninhibited, loose, free, and vibrant. Many children looked to the art room as a time to be who they really were. Their creativity and enthusiasm was contagious and they helped me to work harder at making their time in my room enjoyable and productive. I introduced artists, art styles, drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, etc. I tried to instill my motto: “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” Hopefully I instilled in them the freedom to remain creative all their lives.

The K-12 art educator is usually the first time children are exposed to “artists” and what visual art is really all about. The elementary, middle, or high school is where they decide to enter into a field of art. Most, if not all, are inspired by the “Art Teacher.”  Ask any student of the arts where, when, and why they choose to be in the visual arts field and most will mention an art teacher they had in school.

I have taught future art educators at Marywood University part time for over 20 years and tried to instill my love and passion for my profession, “the art of teaching art” through my experiences in the classroom. I believe my first-hand knowledge made it easier for my students to understand the challenges they would face in a classroom.

Earning Outstanding Art Educator awards did not mean as much to me as learning about former students’ successes. I am humbled by the achievements of both my elementary and university students. Having kept up with past students through social media and other avenues, I find that many of my elementary students went into the field of art and the Art Education students from Marywood are now art educators, principals, artists, and published in arts education journals. It is rewarding to know so many of them are accomplished in their chosen field.

As an art educator, I chose to teach future artists. I had to know all methods, materials, and mediums, and now it is my turn to be the artist. My work will always be developing. My love for ceramics over the past 40 years is evolving. It is challenging and rewarding but working in clay is as gratifying to me as teaching children.

A good educator never stops learning. One learns from their students, peers, and life itself. I must say, I truly loved what I did everyday and would not change a minute. I will forever be a teacher and a student.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

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