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Leaving Education

After eight years as a public school art teacher, I am leaving my education to become a full-time artist.

A little backstory. Right after high school, I went to a 4-year private art college to get a BFA in animation. I felt lost after that, my heart was not in getting a job in animation or freelancing.  After a year of waitressing and floundering, I went back to college to get a second BFA in art education to become a teacher. Seven years of college total. 

I ended up teaching high school at a very small charter school for three years. I was extremely burnt out and mentally exhausted after those three years. I took some time off to move across the country and figure things out in a warmer climate. I tried teaching again midway through the following year but was very quickly fired. (That’s a story for another time.) I honestly thought I wasn’t going to teach again and had no idea what to do. I ended up landing a job as an elementary art teacher and I loved the change in age. Sure, it also has its ups and downs, but it was more my style than high school ever was. I have been there for five years and got teacher of the year during my third year. I even survived online teaching during COVID. What a crazy time! 

The first day of my 8th year teaching

I love my current school. The kids are generally good and they love coming to art. I have no major behavior issues. The admin and staff are kind and respectful. I am liked by most staff and I like them back. I have my own classroom and build my own curriculum. I get to plan my lessons however I want, as long as I provide some lesson plans each week. Last year I got to pick out all new classroom furniture and really feel like my art room is my second home. I have a fabulous supply budget, and most surprisingly, I am very happy with how much I am paid.  I am truly #BLESSED! It’s been a good five years. So why would I want to leave?

I’m a person who puts 150% into whatever I’m doing. I do way more than I need to and much more than is asked, but often feel like I’m still not doing enough. I facilitate after-school clubs, design the yearbook, join various committees, go to all the events, and constantly hang up art in the halls. People tell me to just take on less, but I know I will not do that. I'm not burnt out, I'm just ready to move on. I've accomplished what I set out to do, and it's time for a new adventure.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been listening to a lot of art business podcasts and watching artists' vlogs. I have a 40-minute drive one way to work. That’s about 1.5 hours of podcasts a day. It has opened a whole world of possibilities. Being an artist always seemed like such an abstract, unrealistic career path to me. Like, how would it even work? But these people I listen to are doing it, and laying out the nitty-gritty of what it really takes. It’s not impossible with the right determination and business/marketing knowledge. I’m already really good at my craft. I do not doubt that I am an excellent artist. I want to use all the skills I’ve used during teaching and put 150% effort into building my own art business. 

Inside of my backyard art studio

Why am I choosing to leave now? It just seems like time. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years and it finally feels right to move on. I’ve been at a Title 1 school for 5 years, which means I can get $5K of student loans forgiven. I have a bit of money saved up, at least enough to float me for six months if I did nothing. I already have a house, a good car, and an art studio in my backyard with all the art and pottery equipment I need to just go for it. I’ve started a website and have a small social media presence and I’m decently tech-savvy to build it up better. My sister also has been wanting to hire me part-time to help her business grow, which gives me a little bit of a cushion. 

Ready to sell some art

Am I scared? Heck yes. My steady paychecks are going to stop and I’ll have to figure out my own health insurance and retirement. I’m not afraid of taxes and paperwork, it’s just something I’ll have to learn. Am I sad? It comes and goes. I still have a month left. I've cried a few times with the staff. I'll also be crying with the students on the last day. I truly do love so many of them. It's a lot of mixed emotions.

Who knows, I might eventually go back to teaching in a year, or two, or three. I just feel like I need to do this for me. I never want to wonder what if. No regrets!

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