Table of Contents » Chapter 4 : Employment » K-12


“When you think about the purposes of education, there are three. We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.” – Tom Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction.


K-12 Teaching Categories

There is A LOT of information about K-12 teaching online; Public, Private and Charter schools are listed state by state, including job requirements and salary. To teach K-12 in a public school, teachers need a specific certification that can vary in each state: However teaching in private or charter schools often do not require a certification, though often a MFA or MA. Check out these links for certification info by state.

Public Schools

Those that teach in a public school will have a higher level of diversity among students and abilities throughout the school year. Those in the public-school system are most likely to work in middle or high school. Public schools are free to attend for all students and are subject to state standards and testing. This is usually not much of a concern for art teachers who do not teach an area that is tested.

Private Schools

Those that teach in private school will have students who are paying to attend classes. These classes may have a stricter curriculum and have required topics to cover. Private schools may also have a religious or group affiliation that affects the type of teaching that can take place. Licenses are not required for art teachers working in private institutions but some private schools may prefer teachers with a state license or certification.

Charter Schools

Those who choose to teach at a charter or magnet school may find success as some programs focus on the arts. This means that the students will be well versed in the arts and need a diverse curriculum. Charter schools are free to attend, but because they are not state funded, the curriculum is controlled by the school and a bit more variation can exist. 

General information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(pay, requirements, job availability

Job Placement

*In addition – word of mouth and visiting the school where you would like to be employed is often very successful!

“If they’re worried about their test scores and want a way to get them higher, they need to give kids more arts, not less … There’s lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests.” – Tom Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction.

Additional Information/Opportunities

There are a lot of resources for K-12 teachers, these often vary from state to state, so googling your state will be helpful,  Use key words “Arts Council” or “Art Commission”. 

Grants/support for K-12 teachers
Here are some national places to find support:

“Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence,” sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has said. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it’s closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.” Fran Smith, Eutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation


Layce Nichols Tips for Your First Year

Lacye Nichols is a first year high school teacher who has quickly learned that it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. Originally from Alabama, she has somehow found her way up north and has quickly learned how to master driving and biking in the snow. She has been working in clay for the past 10 years, mastering decals and covering her work in gold glitter.

Find Teaching at K-12 Schools

  • Get to work a few minutes early. Lock your door and sit in silence with a cup of coffee. Relax before students begin to come in because once they walk through that door it is go time.
  • Share a funny story. Each Monday I show my students random cat videos, or tell them about something funny our dog did. They now get angry if I forget to do this. It just starts the week with a smile.
  • Allow your students to know you are a human being. If your pet died, share your grief with them. If you got engaged, tell the story of how it happened. You will be surprised at the inspiration you will give your students when they understand that you are human and don’t live in the dungeon at your school.
  • LISTEN. Listen before you talk. You will gain respect when you have open ears.
  • Learn about your students. Memorize their first and last name, schedule, check their attendance periodically, talk about their fashion, where they work, learn about what their parents do, etc.
  • Pick a time to go home AND GO HOME AT THAT TIME! I have open studio hours on Mondays and Thursdays until 4 pm sharp. Every other day I go home at the hour stated in my contract no matter what.
  • ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE A GREAT PERSON AND ARE LOVED NO MATTER WHAT SOMEBODY SAYS TO YOU. Kids can say horrible things and will do anything to make you upset. If a student is giving you a hard time it is perfectly ok to calmly tell them “this conversation is over and can continue during lunch.” Then turn around and walk to a student who makes you smile and compliment them. Their smile will automatically make you smile. For each student who “hates you” there are a minimum of five students who look up to you, look forward to your class, and cannot wait to see YOU. I struggle with this still to this day.
  • When driving home, say aloud two positive events about your day. When somebody asks about your day say the positive. During my first semester I would go home and only complain about my day. My boyfriend finally told me that he could not take the negativity anymore and it was ruining out relationship. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE AND WRITE IT DOWN.
  • SAVE EVERYTHING YOU ARE GIVEN. I have drawings, letters, and cards from students hanging behind my desk. During a hard day I read the letters from students, and my students love talking about artwork created by their peers, and little kids.
  • Find out who is in charge of your PTA immediately. Before school started I knew I needed a few materials for the studio in which my budget couldn’t afford. I sent out a mass email to the faculty and PTA asking for these items. I also hand out letters to parents during any conferences stating a list of things that could be donated. I have had everything from 10 gallon buckets, spray bottles, newspaper, drying cleaning bags, and yogurt containers donated.
  • Make connections with parents and share the positive and concerns you have with their student.
  • The janitor is your best friend. Bake him or her cookies.
  • Make time for you. If exercising is your thing then make sure to exercise, bake cupcakes, do yoga, paint your nails, go to the batting cages. This is SO hard, but SO important.
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Conversations with parents, students, admin, incidents, and taking pictures of student artwork.
  • If a student gets into an art show send an email to the entire faculty inviting them to the show. Attach a picture of the work.
  • Have assistants and give classroom jobs. Students feel good about helping. My students make the studio slip, glazes, clay, clean and organize tools, repair tools, load and unload kilns, and a few know how to fire the kilns as well.
  • HAVE VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND HOLD ALL STUDENTS TO THEM. A lot of kids dropped my class in the beginning because I would not allow them to just make whatever they wanted, and treat the studio with disrespect. Now there is mutual respect and it is a safe and caring environment.
  • Set clear and precise rules and do not falter. If no cell phones are allowed in your studio, then take them away. If you allow one student to get away with breaking a rule, everybody will.


Jenny Hager – teaching K-12 online

Jennifer Hager teaches visual art and drawing online to high school students all over the state of Georgia. She earned her MFA in ceramics from Louisiana State University in 2014. Jennifer has a new baby daughter, Stella, and is choosing to teach online has allowed her to stay home with her child. 

Jenny Hager - Teaching K-12 Online

“As the needs of k-12 students change, more and more students are opting for online learning. A lot of my students say they or their parents chose online learning because they felt the brick and mortar schools did not meet their children’s needs for a variety of reasons.  Some students prefer a “homeschooled” approach (although technically this isn’t homeschool—teachers teach the content to the students, not the parents).  A lot of my students enjoy the freedom of online schooling—some are dual-enrolled in college and some work jobs during the day.

To teach online with a public school, you will most likely need a teaching certificate.  Some online private schools may accept an MFA instead, but most require teaching certification.  I went the alternative route with iTeach to obtain my certificate—it was about $4000 and took me about 3 months in a self-paced online course to complete.  This also includes “student teaching” (in my case, I was hired at a brick and mortar school as a full-time teacher, and an evaluator from my program popped in a few times to evaluate me.  During this time (this portion of evaluation lasted a year), I had a provisional license—once I finished the student teaching I received full certification).

There were a few factors that led me to teach online.  I have taught in public brick-and-mortar schools and have had wonderful and not-so-wonderful experiences.  The first school I taught at was a dream—it was an academy in Louisiana.  We had talented, brilliant students and no behavior issues.  When we moved to Georgia, I taught at a middle school with lots of behavior issues. I had 45+ students in all my classes, not enough chairs, and a lot of stressful experiences.

Once my husband and I decided to have a baby, I wanted to stay home.  I found a listing for an online teaching job, applied, and got the job! I currently teach in Georgia at a public online school.  My school offers several art classes including visual arts, photography, and drawing.  The school essentially functions the same way a brick and mortar would—we hold live synchronous classes at specific times, we take attendance, students submit work through dropboxes and take online quizzes, and students receive an art box with supplies each year to complete their projects.  Teachers create videos to show techniques and hold live classes to discuss projects and show students how to model with clay or paint with acrylics. We can use webcams, document cameras, and video editing software to deliver the content effectively.  I must say that I feel I make the same connections with students that I did in the physical classroom, and it’s always fun to meet them face to face when we have outing events.

Pros for students:

  • Content is always available
  • It is much easier to give students accommodations (like extended time on quizzes, multiple attempts, etc.)
  • They get to stay home—students with anxiety love this!
  • My online school has a prom and graduation and several outing days throughout the year for students to interact with each other.

Cons for students:

  • Lack of face-to-face interaction with peers
  • Higher distractions at home (video games, sleeping, etc.)

Pros for teachers:

  • You get to stay at home! Most of the time…. My school does in person state testing each semester and all teachers must go to a testing site to proctor these tests.  But these only last a few weeks out of the year, so not so bad!
  • Flexibility—I can run to the store or a doctor’s appointment if I need to in between classes
  • I can keep my baby home with me!  I have a 12 week old—when I go back to school in the fall I will have someone come to the house to watch her while I am teaching classes, which will hopefully be a bit cheaper than daycare.
  • Everything is recorded. If you have an issue with a student or parent, you often have proof of something that you did.  For example, a parent claimed I didn’t give her son accommodations for extended time on a test, but I was able to easily show that I did.
  • More controls with students. In the online classroom, I can give or take away mic privileges, chat privileges and even remove a student from the class if he/she is being disruptive or inappropriate.  Once again, these things are recorded so if you need to take disciplinary actions, it’s much easier.

Cons for teachers:

  • Lower pay than brick and mortar
  • Big learning curve—lots of systems to learn in a short amount of time
  • Often times more workload with data collection, spreadsheets, etc.
  • Must be signed in during the workday and available for phone calls/chats all day, so sometimes I feel tethered to my computer and phone.
  • I make A LOT of phone calls to parents regarding failing grades and this can be intimidating for some—awkward phone calls are never fun
  • Larger class load depending on where you are teaching (I have about 200-250 students a semester)

If you currently teach in a brick and mortar, and you want to teach online, I would check with your local school district—many districts offer online classes now.  In my experience, many of my colleagues in brick-and-mortar moonlight as online teachers for other districts or private/charter online schools to earn extra income.  Also check with your state’s department of education-they might also offer a public state online school.  Different online schools pay teachers in different ways—some pay per student and some pay a salary (full-time).  Some even pay more for AP classes!  Also, lots of states offer reciprocity for teaching certificates, so you may be able to find online (part-time or full-time) work in other states.


Resources for teaching online:   K12 has online schools in just about every state. “Tuition-free, K12-powered public schools feature rigorous online curriculum with hands-on materials delivered to your door.* Dedicated, state-certified teachers provide instruction and support for students in grades K–12.”  Connections Academy schools are tuition-free online public schools for students in grades K–12. Most Connections Academy-supported schools are accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies.  K12 International Academy is a fully accredited, U.S. diploma-granting, private online school for grades K–12.  A state by state listing of online schools