Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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September 01, 2010

Leaping Out On Faith: My Journey to Becoming An Art Teacher

As the end of my graduate program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro quickly approached, I began looking for an art teacher position.  I never had any intention of leaving North Carolina.  However, all of the art teacher positions that I was interested in were dead ends.  I began to feel the stress of not being able to find a job, which resulted in my visiting the career center on a regular basis.  On one particular visit, I read a flyer that advertised jobs in Florida.  We all know that the arts have a history of being vulnerable to budget cuts.  Fortunate for me, they were hiring 60 elementary art teachers in Palm Beach County!  Although I did not want to relocate and had never been to Florida, I decided to apply for the position.  A week later, I received a phone call requesting that I travel to Florida for a face-to-face interview.  I purchased a round trip ticket on the Greyhound bus to Palm Beach, Florida.  I left on a Wednesday morning. The trip was 21 hours one way!  

My interview was scheduled for 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning at the Palm Beach County School District office.   I remembered being so exhausted at the interview that I did not even think about being nervous.  The interview, lasting less than forty minutes ended with the principal offering me an art teacher position.  She also drove me to the school and provided a tour of the facilities.  In all of my excitement I had not yet begun to think about the logistics of it all.

Later, she asked if I had any thoughts about where I would live.   I told her that I didn’t know anyone in Florida.  She immediately got on the telephone and called an elderly woman, whom I came to know as Aunt Florence.   Everyone at the school knew Aunt Florence because her niece, a very popular teacher at the school had just retired a few years earlier.   I spoke with Aunt Florence and explained my situation.  Without any hesitation, she told me that I could stay at her house and that we could work out the details later.  I jotted down her phone number and told her I would call her upon my return home to North Carolina.   I did not have much time to prepare for moving because I faced a 21 hour return trip to North Carolina and needed to be back in Florida on Sunday because school would begin on Monday morning! 

I flew back to Florida on an airline called People’s Express.  Aunt Florence and her family met me at the airport upon my arrival to Palm Beach.  It was a whirlwind adventure!

I taught at Delray Elementary School located in Delray Beach, Florida for three years.  I did not have an art room. Instead, I had an art storage closet.  I took the challenge of teaching art on a cart and became very successful at it.   Each morning, I pulled my cart out; made sure it was properly loaded with supplies and anxiously began my journey as a first year art teacher. When you teach art on a cart you learn to become very efficient and highly organized.

Today, when I look at photographs that I took of students at Pine Grove I still remember the names of some of the children.  The first year of teaching is one of those memories that will stay with me forever.  I learned so many valuable lessons my first year.   By the way, I forgot to mention that since my school was listed on the Federal Register as a school with a high demographic of students on free and reduced lunch that my college loan was cancelled out for each of the three years that I taught in Palm Beach County!
Today, when I think about my journey in search of a teacher position, I wonder what might have happened had Palm Beach County not needed 60 new art teachers.   Would I have taken a job in North Carolina?  Would I have settled for a job where I would have to travel between several schools?  I will never know.  I do know that my decision to accept an art teacher position in Florida was the best decision that I could have ever made. 

As we travel through life, we cannot predict the paths that our lives will take as we journey to become art teachers.  I do know that we sometimes have to leap out on faith and trust that we have made the right decision.  Sometimes, we have to look beyond the area where we live and consider relocating even if temporarily in order to get our feet in the education door. 
What is it that motivates us?  Who inspires us?  What keeps us going as art educators?  What lessons have you learned as an art educator that could be passed on to a new generation of art educators?  These are the overarching questions that I will examine during the month of September as an excited first time blogger! 

-Minuette Floyd


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I'm in your fan club, that was a great story. Thanks for sharing. Some of us have traveled North, South, East and West looking for that first art teaching job.

Kate Barnett

Thank you for sharing, I found your story very inspiring! I just graduated from my MAT program and cannot find a job. I am very disappointed but am staying positive in hope that I will find my first art teaching job soon.

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