Interview with Heather Kline
Elementary Art Teacher
GC Graduation Year
Why or how did you choose your field? Were there specific experiences that influenced you?
Becoming an art educator happened to be the furthest occupation from my mind when I entered Goshen College! I had planned to study psychology and did so for the first two years at GC. While pursuing this major, I realized something was missing. I had always loved art and had taken art courses all through high school. I also came from an artistic family, which had imbedded the arts into me since childhood. At this point, I realized that I needed to find a major where I could develop my art skills, but at the same time, share them with others. This is when I had one of those “light bulb” moments! Art education, how perfect! What better way to use my artistic knowledge and foster a love for art onto a younger generation? So my journey began as an art major!
What’s exciting about your job or this field?
The thing I find most exciting about art education is working with kids. I love their energy and creativity! I never know what each day may bring when working with a fifth or sixth grader’s personality and humor. I also have to admit that hanging out in a classroom full of art supplies is not all that bad either!
What has been a challenge in your career journey?
Education does bring many challenges to my plate on a daily basis. As an art teacher, I see every student in my building, and with this privilege comes the challenge of teaching to every student’s ability level. I see a range of students who are gifted/talented, mild/moderately handicapped, emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and, of course, your average student. Establishing a classroom environment where every student can express their creativity and develop their artistic skills at a level where they can achieve their best work is always a challenge. I have found over the years that developing art projects that relate to my students’ lives enables me to reach each student in my classroom.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
If I knew then what I know now, I would have also gotten licensed to teach in a regular academic classroom. Lately, my specialized area has been threatened due to budgeting issues. I would feel more secure knowing I had another career option to fall back on if the arts were discontinued in my school district.
How did your liberal arts education assist you in your journey? Are there specific examples you can offer?
I feel very lucky to have studied at a liberal arts college. I feel that being exposed to a variety of courses outside of my major has allowed me to “think outside the box” and to problem solve effectively. Being subjected to classes like philosophy, writing, and, oh yes, biblical literature, gave me the tools I needed to become a well-rounded teacher as well as a productive citizen.
Did anyone offer you some memorable advice that you’d like to pass on? Or…what advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
One bit of advice that I remember many of my education professors passing on to us was the importance of flexibility!!! I cannot stress how important, as a teacher, it is to be flexible within the classroom, with administrators, and with parents. In education one never knows which direction the morning may take you or how a student may respond to something you may say or ask of them in class.
Gaining experience is also another word of advice I would pass on to any graduate. I was not able to find a teaching job my first year out of college, so I subbed. The following year I found a job right away and the principal that hired me had been impressed that I had been a substitute for a year. He told me that spending that time in and out of various classrooms and working with a variety of kids gave him confidence that I could handle any classroom environment. That year of subbing was probably one of the most invaluable years of my life from a teaching standpoint. In all, teaching will be one of the toughest jobs you will ever have, but it will also be the most rewarding!