Laura Abbot, a 2012 art education graduate, and Manager of Policy Projects for the ELPC – The Education Policy Leadership Center, shares her experience on the job market and some advice for those of us seeking jobs in art education today.
1) Describe the time between graduation from MU and getting hired by EPLC?
I graduated from Millersville in May of 2012, and was officially hired by The Education Policy and Leadership Center about a month later.
I was made aware of EPLC and this job opportunity simply by attending in April 2012 a free community forum for the release of an arts and education policy report published by EPLC. All Millersville art students were invited, yet only two students, including myself, showed up.
While my time between graduating and beginning work at EPLC was only a month, the arduous hiring process began immediately following the forum in early April. It was all of a sudden June, and the position with EPLC sounded promising but I had yet to secure the job. During a particularly rough post-graduation moment, a mentor of mine told me if I were to just find a job then my other uncertainties – such as where to live – would solve themselves. I laughed and thought, “Right, like there are just jobs out there. No one is finding a job!” Then I realized: Especially not me, because I’m not applying! It was at that moment I declared applying for teaching positions and interviewing as my full time job until something was official.
2) What do you like about your current position?
I didn’t grow up saying I wanted to manage policy projects for an education policy nonprofit. That description doesn’t sound even remotely connected to art education, but what I do in this position is facilitate statewide advocacy for education, including art education, in Pennsylvania.
It isn’t traditional teaching per se, but it is a place where I can use my passion for education and love of writing to communicate ideas to a diverse audience. I love that in my position I am immersed in art, education, writing, journalism, state government, political science, history, economics, philosophy, and even math. In a way, this is similar to the art classroom, where all disciplines coalesce.
3) What should art education students consider when looking for jobs, especially related to jobs outside the traditional K-12 classroom?
Upon graduation you will receive your Bachelor of Science in Art Education, which qualify you to teach in a public school in this state. That does not mean it is the only career for which you are qualified. It also does not mean you must teach right away, or as time passes outside of the classroom you will somehow lose your passion for it.
Whatever your future career may be, you can approach it through the lenses of an artist, art teacher, and creative leader. If your ultimate goal is to end up in the classroom, trust that every experience outside of the classroom will only inform your eventual work inside the classroom.
4) How has your degree in art education helped prepare you for what you are doing now?
Studying pedagogy has allowed me to appreciate that not everyone begins on the same page. In the classroom, this is “background knowledge” and pre-assessments. In the policy world, this is “going to where the legislator is” and priority assessments. For advocacy, it means sharing with others the value of the arts, by sharing stories or providing authentic experiences to parents or administrators who may not have had a robust arts education.
My time spent in the Millersville art department honed my skills of seeing, questioning, and imagining intangible possibilities. It is my opinion we need more people with these skills around every table, not just the art or art-related table.
5) What advice would you give those seeking jobs in art education in 2013?
Advocacy is about relationship-building and I submit the job search is no different. I cannot stress enough the importance of being present in the community through volunteering and attending art or education-related events.
While applying for teaching positions, look also to local, statewide, or national arts/cultural organizations and their partners, and examine your other interests and seek jobs related to those fields. You may be surprised where the path takes you and how connected all these paths really are.