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NC Arts in Education Week

Students in Ms. Withers class raise hands


It’s North Carolina Arts in Education Week, and we are especially excited to have Janice Withers of Apex Friendship Middle School on our team! Janice, who teaches visual arts, has been named 2022-23 Middle Level Art Educator of the Year by the North Carolina Art Educators Association.


We asked Janice to share a few thoughts with us concerning her role and the arts in education.


How long have you been a visual arts teacher?
I have been a Visual Arts Teacher for 16 years with Wake County Public School System. I began my teaching career in 2006 at East Garner IB Magnet Middle School, followed by Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School, and now I have been at Apex Friendship Middle School since our inaugural year of 2018.


Can you tell us what a visual arts teacher does – what is a typical day like?
One of the best things about being a Visual Arts teacher is there is no such thing as a “typical” day.  Each day is unique and changes based upon students’ discoveries, school events, and family and community engagement. In the Art Studio, I witness students make new discoveries in art, whether it’s about a new artist, art movement, 2D or 3D technique or media. The Art Teacher’s professional expertise might be requested to collaborate with staff members for interdisciplinary units, host artist residencies, advise Art Club, or create decorations for school events such as performances, dances, and celebrations. Lastly, an Art Teacher communicates with parents, and establish partnerships with community organizations in preparation for local, state, or national art competitions or exhibitions. For those reasons, a typical day expands far beyond the Art Studio.


Colored pencils


What do you have your students do as typical activities in a semester or year?
Visual Arts classes at Apex Friendship Middle School are semester-long. Course offerings include Visual Arts Exploratory (6th Grade), Visual Composition, Pottery (7th & 8th Grades), and Visual Composition II (8th Grade). Students are introduced to the Elements of Art and Principles of Design before creating projects specifically designed to demonstrate mastery of a particular concept, technique, or media. Color Theory, Watercolor Painting, and Coil Pots are a few of my favorite units to teach. The Color Theory and Watercolor units allow students to explore paint mixing and application techniques. In Pottery, students create a series of projects using Pinch, Slab, and Coil hand building techniques. Coil Pots are often the students’ favorite because students design a two-dimensional idea that transforms into a three-dimensional creation that is both functional and unique. Ultimately, my goal each semester is for students to create at least one masterpiece to proudly display and cherish for many years as they grow into adulthood! 


Tell us why you chose art education as a profession.
I always knew I wanted to have a profession in Art Education, but I did not know I would fall in love teaching Middle School Visual Arts! My original goal was to become a professor of Fine Arts at a college or university; however, during my student teaching placement, middle school became my favorite age to teach while obtaining my K-12 certification. Each day, there is excitement in the Art Studio, and I enjoy watching the students grow and develop as artists over the course of three years.  I can truly say that I am constantly growing and learning from my students how to become a better Art Educator.


Tell us why you think arts education is important.
Arts Education is essential because we are surrounded and influenced by Visual and Performing Arts. Art is a part of our everyday life. The Arts allows us to express our thoughts, communicate our ideas, document historical events, and bring communities together. The Arts can be therapeutic and increase a person’s social and emotional wellbeing. Arts Education also allows students to work collaboratively with their peers, which helps students to view multiple perspectives outside of their own. Elliot W. Eisner said, “The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.” To summarize, I believe Arts Education is important because it empowers students to become critical thinkers and effective communicators, which are essential skills utilized for professions inside or outside of Arts Education.


A tray filled with paint from creative students