AOE Wants to Know: What Does Leadership Look Like For You?

Art Leadership

I probably haven’t done a great job of broadcasting it here on AOE, but I have a new role with my district this year. I am now the Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator, meaning I am out of the classroom and working with and for teachers across our district. I run professional developments, make district-wide curricular decisions, support teachers with instructional and management strategies, and act as a representative and advocate for the 77 art teachers and 33,000 students they serve.

The short time I’ve spent doing this work has started to open my eyes to what art teachers want and need in terms of leadership, support, and opportunity. I’d like to start that wider conversation here today!

What kinds of leadership structures are in place for art teachers in your district?

If none, what would you want those structures to look like?

Do you have enough opportunities to take leadership roles? What types?

Who are the driving forces behind art department decisions in your district?

We’d love to hear about the successes and challenges happening in your district and department! 

Let us know in the comments section below! 




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Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Rachel Albert

    I teach at a private school with 2 other campuses. There is no unity between the campuses and we really have nothing to do with each other. I wish we had consistency between the campuses and would love to coordinate that.

    • I think that collaboration is so important! I really encourage you to get the ball rolling and start thinking about the structures already built into your schools that will allow for it.

  • Vicky Siegel

    No leadership for any of the specials (music, art, p.e, library). Years ago we had “Subject Area Coordinators” and dept. meetings, but that was cut (we earned a small stipend.) Now art teachers rarely see each other. If changes are made at 5th or 6th grade, for example, lower elem. teachers are never aware. Admin. make all of the decisions. We would love a coordinator like you! There is talk next year to have some “late start” days where we can finally meet as a department—they say that means no more times for us just to sit through reading and math meetings that never apply to us!!! We will see! Thank goodness for AOE and other art blogs and pinterest! At least we get new ideas at these sites! When I did mention the PD Packs from AOE to my admin., she laughed and walked away! But today all 2nd grade teachers are out with subs for training. Art teachers do all of their new learning on their own! At least in my district! Again, thank goodness for the AOE classes! They are the best—even though some are not “approved” by my district!! They have all still made me a better teacher!!

  • Shannon Lauffer

    What a great opportunity for your department to be able to feel unified and cohesive! I work in a very tiny district – I am the art teacher in the primary school, and there are two more in the elementary and middle schools. The three of us are lucky if we are given one PD day each year to work together. Unfortunately, this makes it very hard for us to feel like a cohesive unit. This is the main reason I am so thankful for AOE – this is the only way I receive anything close to relevant professional development, and the only time I can pick the brains of other art teachers working with my age group!

  • artswim

    We usually have one or two days right after school is out…if we choose it for PD. We lead it together. We do not get any special in service. This year, many were denied the opportunity to attend thes State Art Ed. Assoc. Meetings? I was allowed to go. Two of us generally lead PD.


    I can answer your questions any time you’d like because we work in the same building BUT I have to say, you do a great job with such a large district! :) And I hope that our district seeing importance in what you represent rubs off on all the other districts who lack this specified leadership role!

  • Christina

    Previously, I worked in a district of 80,000 students. They provided us ONE day together–for K-5 or K-12 art teachers only–not MS or HS. We met the first week of classes when we were just meeting our students, so we had to get a sub (!?!) While the entire day usually consisted of valuable workshops, museum tours, and artist talks, it was never enough! We went right back to isolation in our buildings and were left to seek our own leadership opportunities within our schools. We never met just as a room of art teachers to discuss any curriculum. Currently, I’m in a district of about 5000 students and our K-12 Art department is able to meet monthly for curriculum planning. We utilize BYOC and plan district art shows, art events, and fundraisers. There are only 7 of us so we make our time is worthwhile. Being in a smaller district our single voice is heard and we have direct input in shaping curriculum. You know what would be great– if we’re talking idealistically– I’d love to offer or organize PD that would promote arts in regular education. I’d love to bring someone to our district that is very inspiring, articulate, and arts-based to talk about imagination and how art teachers can support innovative, creative thinking among their students! Why are the arts important? What do the arts provide for our students? How can we nurture curiosity? I definitely know I don’t want to hear about Making Words and Sorting Sounds…

  • Gostei bastante da ideia. Vou continuar a ver. Abraços.