When Bluefield University graduate Amanda Parks completed her undergraduate degree from Bluefield University in art, she did not see teaching as one of her future endeavors. Now, Parks is working full-time as an art teacher in McDowell County, West Virginia, and acknowledges that Bluefield University helped prepare her for this new path.
Even though teaching was not Parks’ first choice, she says teaching has always been there whether or not she realized it. In high school, Parks worked at a daycare and also started teaching community art classes through Bluefield University’s Fine Arts Community School (FACS) in 2001. She says she was initially drawn to BU’s small campus and its enrollment size during her high school years.
“I started thinking seriously about teaching after I graduated with my undergraduate degree and was working full-time at the University. I started taking classes in the education program under the employee tuition waiver program,” said Parks.
Parks started teaching art full-time at Southside K-8 in McDowell County, West Virginia in December 2018 on a teaching permit. In January, she started the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) with teaching licensure program the University has to offer. Parks says that being a student as well as a teacher in the classroom helped shape her altogether. “It was very practical hands-on learning that I needed,” said Parks.
When Parks first started teaching art at Southside K-8 in War, West Virginia, the program was only part-time. Due to this, Parks also taught art at Sandy River Middle School. “Last year, the program was brought back to a full-time position, and I am very excited to be teaching at Southside K-8 full-time again this year,” said Parks. She will teach art to grades 6-8 in addition to teaching specialized art classes and serving as the Spanish facilitator. This will allow students at Southside Intermediate to have the opportunity to take virtual Spanish in 7th and 8th grade.
Parks says the most rewarding part about teaching art so far has been seeing growth within her students as well as seeing them realize that growth. Last year Parks submitted some of her students’ artwork to the Tamarack in Beckley, West Virginia for a juried exhibit. Five of her students’ pieces were accepted. She then took these students to the exhibit to see their work on display. She says this was a very special moment, considering most of her students had never been to an art museum before, nevertheless heard of the Tamarack. “They felt the energy of accomplishments as well as seeing their work displayed with other artists. It was a wonderful feeling for them,” said Parks.
Parks said there are so many opportunities at Bluefield University. While a student at BU, Parks was a work-study in the admissions office, the art department, and in the financial aid office.“The employees were so good to me. I will never forget their kindness.”
Parks also did some traveling with the University in her undergraduate years. She says she has traveled with the art department and showcased her art as part of a traveling art exhibit.“ I went to Romania with the art department to paint murals in a K-8 school for Roma children.”
Parks even participated in community service through grants and was able to “be an artist” on two other occasions. She painted local murals and participated in an Appalachian Trail exploration through art by producing a series of work to be exhibited.
Amanda Parks will complete her MAED with licensure program in May 2020.