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Putting Theory to Practice

Embracing the three H's—head, hands and heart—the School of Art Education has been making its mark on education in the arts with six students from the credential program now teaching at local Bay Area schools

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Photo by Bob Toy.

The Academy of Art University prides itself in its mission of “the artists of today teaching the artists of tomorrow." Departments across the university uphold that initiative, but the School of Art Education (ARE) and Teaching Credential Program in the Visual Arts aims to take it a step further in preparing its students to become art educators and inspire a new generation of artists.

In 2015, the School of Art Education kickstarted the Art Teaching Credential, a new program in conjunction with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) for Academy students to become accredited art teachers in the state’s K-12 public school system.

Since its inception, six students have enrolled in the credential program—each one has passed all the California Teaching Performance Assessment (CalTPA) tests and have been successfully hired at local Bay Area schools. The program currently sits on a 100 percent hiring rate.

Tiffany Allen, an M.F.A. ARE student, is finishing up the Art Teaching Credential this spring and was just hired to work at Oakland High School’s Visual Art Academy, a “school-within-a-school” that has “attracted students with its strong visual art career focus and college prep program,” according to the school’s website.

“I didn’t expect to get hired so soon,” Allen explained. “I’m looking forward to the diversity of the students and what they’ll be able to create out of that diversity. I find that people with different backgrounds, especially within Oakland and the changing communities, use art as a security blanket to transform their situations into something creative.”

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Photo by Bob Toy.

Students interested in becoming public school teachers must first earn a B.F.A. to start the credential program which involves two semesters of academic classes for students to learn pedagogy – the art and science of teaching – and one semester working as a student teacher in a public school classroom under a master teacher. Students in the Academy’s B.F.A. art education program are able to use five of their undergraduate courses towards this credential, cutting the program to two semesters.

According to ARE Director Marybeth Tereszkiewicz, the idea is to move from theory to practice.  

“Students are coached one on one to be prepared to successfully teach,” she explained. “We nurture our student’s strengths and equip them to handle all of the challenges that occur in a public school classroom.”

For Allen, the transition was seamless.

“It all clicked,” she said on going from being in a classroom as a student and then as a teacher. “By having the combined program, you get the insight of the master’s program but you also get the support that you need in your classrooms.”

Becoming an accredited teacher in California means students are able to teach ALL students in a diverse classroom which included students with English language needs, as well as other learning challenges. The California State Board of Education website lists different visual and performing arts standards for prekindergarten through grade eight, and grades nine through 12, which all credentialed teachers must uphold. Tereszkiewicz was recently chosen by the CTC to be the lead art credential assessor for the state of California.

While some might consider the Art Teaching Credential Program for its successful hiring rate, as an educator herself Tereszkiewicz encourages finding fulfillment in guiding others in the exploration of their own creativity and personal artistic development.  

“Teaching art is a rewarding occupation as it demands that you use the three H’s,” she said. “‘Head, Hands and Heart’: ‘Head’ to be able to understanding theory and curriculum, ‘Hands’ to be able to master the artistic skills you are teaching and ‘Heart’ to be able to engage and uplift your students.”