Art educators discuss their role in classrooms

Nov 19, 2018

Art educators from across the state wrapped up a three-day conference in downtown Buffalo Sunday. The New York State Art Teachers Association Conference (NYSATA) celebrated their 70th anniversary. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked with some of the art educators about challenges and their work in the classroom. 

Art educators attended the New York State Art Teachers Association Conference in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Art educators play an important role in classrooms, guiding student’s creativity.

“It’s important as educators that we are always transforming ourselves to meet the needs of our students. To really bring forward what the arts bring to our communities,” said Sharon Ciccone, president, NYSATA.

Ciccone is an art teacher in the Spackenkill Union Free School District in Poughkeepsie. 

With so much digital technology, the conference theme was ‘Transformation - A New Era in Art Education’. As the art educators gathered for their workshop training, there’s new state learning standard in place that now includes Media Arts as a 5th discipline.

“We hope that everybody leaves here with something new that they can apply – something that really elevates their practice as an educator and really transforms the look of art education across the state – that’s our big goal here and we do that through educating our teachers,” Ciccone explained.   

Sharon Ciccone, president, NYSATA & Thom Knab, art teacher, Dodge Elementary in the Williamsville School District.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“I usually present every year as well and I find in presenting I get as much back because people that come to your session bring ideas,” remarked Thom Knab, art teacher, Dodge Elementary in the Williamsville School District.

Knab of Buffalo was named the state's Art Educator of the Year. Knab tells did a presentation about unlocking creativity through collaboration.

“Different ways to get students to look at artwork and work through that together as well as creating. Collaboration is a big of the new art standards in New York State,” Knab said.

Art educators are working through the many challenges that students are facing in their own lives that land in the classroom.

"It’s dealing with a variety of children that you get. You get children that will come from homes of divorce or a complete family or will bring different individual struggles – they might have a learning disability or we get a lot more students now from other parts of the world and learning the culture, as well as the language, so it’s trying to make sure they are all included in what we are doing and I think art is a great place to do that because it is so visual and allows them to express themselves and create to feel more comfortable in the school setting,” Knab responded.

“And visual arts – it’s a language - it’s a language all on its own, so for students who are struggling with language – that barrier can really be lifted,” replied Ciccone.

During the art educator conference, vendors conducted demonstrations, providing a quick lesson for new ideas in the classroom. 

Vendors conducted demonstrations, providing a quick lesson for new ideas in the classroom.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“So sometimes your accidents can be happy accidents,” declared a vendor demonstrating an art method to a conference attendee.

But the art teachers’ conference was not just for elementary and high school educators. Conference co-coordinator Patricia Groves is an adjunct instructor at Nazareth College in Rochester. She taught art in K- through 12 for 32-years. Now she is teaching future art educators.

“I want to walk away from this conference feeling very encouraged and hopeful that it’s going in the right direction,” Groves said.

Groves noted there are many changes in the field, but more importantly, she’s now seeing a teacher shortage. 

Conference co-coordinator Patricia Groves is an adjunct instructor at Nazareth College in Rochester.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“We’re in crisis," Groves declared. "At Nazareth College they use to have at least probably 30-student teachers a year – I have six – and they call me all the time – ‘I’ve got this job – do you have anyone to recommend?’ and I keep saying ‘no’ – they all have jobs. I mean it’s great for them – we’re in that cycle where they are going to be in high-demand, but it’s sad for the field because they are really having a hard time across all education."

Groves has advice to those contemplating a career as an art educator. She said to "touch the lives of young people - is amazing."