The strong professional preparation of Missouri State’s Art Education program is well known. What is not as well known is that, lately, students have been getting hired to teach while they are still students themselves. While this current surge in job openings may not last long, the consistent success achieved by students in the program does not seem to be changing anytime soon.
Dr. Fatih Benzer, assistant professor of Art Education, points out the factors of the program that support students throughout their college career. First-hand experience is a major focus, as students are required to complete at least 100 hours of teaching practica in the public school system and an additional 500 hours of student teaching with the school district of their choosing. “By the time our BSEd students graduate, they have many valued hours of teaching experience that make them prime candidates for teaching art in all levels of K-12,” explains Dr. Benzer.
Recent Art Education graduate Jeff Moore is a recent example of student teaching turned full-time position. Jeff had originally planned to student teach with one Springfield-area school during the Fall 2021 semester. That plan changed when he found out that, as a student teacher, he could earn a Provisional Certificate and be hired to teach full time. After interviewing with three schools, he received an offer an entire semester before graduating in December 2021. “It all happened just two weeks before school started, so it was a whirlwind of a couple weeks. I contacted Dr. Benzer and he graciously walked me through the process of getting everything taken care of to make it possible even though school was not in session,” Jeff adds.
There are other factors of the program, besides the teaching experience, that create a well-rounded education experience. Jeff considers the studio courses offered as one of his favorite aspects of the degree, “I was able to develop as an artist while learning how to become an educator. . . What I found was a place where I could reconnect with visual art both through studio access and instruction.” The Art Education BSEd course of study emphasizes personal development as an artist. This allows students to push their own creative boundaries, which can translate to inspired lessons in the classroom.
Jeff had some initial reservations about starting the degree program as someone who had not practiced art, other than the craft of carpentry, in about two decades, “I wanted to be an art teacher as a 17 year old, but life took me a different direction and I spent 20 years working as a carpenter instead. After running my own business and reaching a place of being completely burned out, I decided to go after the old dream.” Despite the dream taking some time to become his reality, revisiting it has proven to be a natural fit, “I remember after my first couple weeks of class at Brick City I had the realization that creating and teaching art is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”
For BSEd in Art Education students wanting to continue their education, there is the Master of Arts in Education (MAE) accelerated program. The online program is specifically designed for those already teaching and allows undergraduate students to complete graduate-level work while simultaneously finishing their BSEd degree. “Given the fact that the online MAE is only 36 credits, our undergraduate students can earn their MAE degree spending two more semesters or less right after they finish their BSED degree,” says Dr. Benzer. Up to 9 credit hours can be counted as mixed credit towards both the undergraduate and graduate degrees, and a total of 18 credit hours towards the MAE degree can be completed while a student finishes the BSEd. Dr. Benzer points out, “This is a huge advantage for [students] because they can have an undergraduate and graduate degree in their specific field that set them apart from the rest of the population who are seeking jobs.”
Dr. Benzer adds, “I have been in the program for six years. What I observed over these years is that the job placement rate has always been high. I suppose that the increased demand for art teachers, or teachers in general, make it even more possible for our students to get hired while they are student teaching. We also teach our students to become proactive when it comes to job searches. Our students establish a great degree of network through volunteering or practicum which in return benefits them while looking for jobs.” In other words, the success rate of students is not merely by chance. Today’s demand for teachers may help the process, but the sense of fulfillment student teachers are finding in the classroom and the skill development found throughout their studies seem to be the real keys to success.
For more information about the BSEd and MAE programs offered by Missouri State’s Department of Art + Design, contact the Art + Design office at 417-837-2330 or contact Dr. Fatih Benzer at FBenzer@missouristate.edu
Taylor Ladd is a graduate assistant for the Department of Art + Design. She is working towards her master’s degree in writing at Missouri State University with professional interests in writing about art, culture, and food.