RMCAD valedictorian paints a picture of what it’s like being an art teacher

Teacher appreciation week may be over, but our appreciation for teachers, like Jasmin Kuykendall, is neverending. This year’s valedictorian, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Art Education with an emphasis in Fine Arts, has tugged at our heart strings. Not only has she received her first (of many) heartfelt drawings from a student (see picture below), but she is confident that she is right where she is meant to be as an art teacher.

Kuykendall was always drawn to the classroom in big part to her past school teachers, who she calls heroes. “I recognized their continuous support they provided to me, and I wanted to be able to pass that along to others,” said Kuykendall. She shares her career journey and insights thus far as a recent graduate and new teacher.

What makes art education unique?
Art education is unique because it’s a subject that can be made accessible to everyone, and everyone benefits from it. I have seen firsthand how creative kids can be when given the opportunity to just let it out. All day they are told what to do and how to do it. In math, there is a right or wrong answer. In writing and reading, there is a correct way to spell and write. However, in art class, they use the materials right in front of them to create their own answer. I have seen the arts classroom become a place of comfort for students who find none at home. They sit down with a piece of paper and watercolor palette, and forget their troubles. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s often something that only happens in an arts classroom.

How was the transition from student to classroom teacher?
The transition from college student to classroom teacher for me was not very difficult as RMCAD did a great job of preparing me for the start of my career. My semester of student teaching gave me real-life, hands-on experience of what it’s like to be a teacher. On top of this, I already had my substitute teaching license, so I took small substitute jobs to gain experience. This was also a great way to ease myself in and made for a pretty smooth transition.

What advice would you give to current students interested in art education?
If I could give advice to current art education students, I would let them know that this career is tough. It’s taxing and requires a lot of energy, but it’s so worth it. If teaching is what you really want to do, go for it, because I wake up every day and love my job. When I am there with my students, it feels right and I know I’m meant to be there. If you are uncertain about whether teaching is the right fit for you, I encourage you to shadow a teacher in the field.

What skills or characteristics are important in this field?
As a teacher, I think it is important to build confidence within yourself. If you give it your all, you’re bound to succeed. Nothing will ever go perfectly, but as long as you do it with confidence and strive to be better each day, you will get the hang of it. When I first joined RMCAD, I was so shy and quiet – and if you didn’t know, students (especially elementary students) smell fear. If you approach everything you do with confidence, then the students can be confident in you. I suppose it’s the ‘fake it until you make it’ technique.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is most certainly the kids. Almost everywhere I go at school, I hear screams from students saying, “MS. K!!!” as they run to give me big hugs. For teacher appreciation week, I received so many hand drawn thank you cards, each one decorated with the silliest and sweetest little drawings. Although I couldn’t read every single word on the inside of their cards, I could feel the outpouring of love and I cherish every single one of them. I feel loved, and I love the kids. That’s why I started this journey!

Congratulations Ms. Kuykendall on this exciting next chapter! If you are interested in pursuing an art education degree, learn more about our program (online or on campus) and apply here.