Westfield State University earns state approval to offer visual arts educator preparation program, beginning this fall

Westfield State University has received informal approval from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for a visual arts educator preparation program, beginning this fall.

The University’s Department of Education will offer both PreK–8 and 5–12 initial baccalaureate programs, as well as PreK–8 and a 5–12 initial post-baccalaureate programs.

“We are pleased to reinstate the visual arts educator preparation program at Westfield State following a brief recess,” said David Shapleigh, professor and chair of the Westfield State University Department of Art. “Our partnerships with area schools in Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, Pittsfield and West Springfield provide an affordable and accessible option for aspiring educators to pursue this field.”

Emily Todd, Ph.D., dean of the University’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, remarked “Students are drawn to Westfield State for its small class size, community partnerships and excellent track record of student teacher placements in local schools, where students gain practical experience as either undergraduate or graduate students.”

Westfield State’s Art Education Coordinator Barbara Keim, Ed.D., shared the highlights of the program. “Our candidates build community through shared courses, engagement in teaching projects in area schools, and time with advisors,” said Keim. “The nature of each methods course creates community as the faculty promotes team building through pedagogical practices.”

The art education program at Westfield State provides an array of robust art courses with options for concentrations in animation, art history, fine arts, graphic design, and illustration.

Springfield Public Schools (SPS) Assistant Superintendent Lydia Martinez-Alvarez and Director of Visual and Performing Arts Julie Jaron said a visual arts educator preparation program at Westfield State University will provide a much needed resource for the district. “This is especially important due to the renewed demand for highly qualified and licensed art teachers in our district with our recent adoption of arts programs for all grades in all schools,” said Martinez-Alvarez, a Westfield State alumna and member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Jaron referenced the success of other SPS and Westfield State collaborations, such as the University’s recent sponsoring of two Springfield high school student art exhibits at its Arno Maris Art Gallery. “With the reestablishment of WSU’s art educator licensure program, we look forward to another important partnership where we can work closely with Westfield State as it prepares excellent art educators,” said Jaron.

As an added benefit, SPS students who study and become graduates of the visual arts educator preparation program at Westfield State may then return to Springfield Public Schools as licensed art educators to teach SPS visual arts classes. This full-circle relationship will provide SPS students with opportunities to engage in, learn about, and grow through art, from Pre–K and continuing throughout their prospective careers. “This program is in perfect alignment with our ongoing SPS/WSU partnership that exists to prepare SPS students become SPS educators, and the opportunity to expand that to the arts is another great step forward,” said Martinez-Alvarez.

The DESE’s informal approval will be followed by a formal review to assess possible full program approval in the future. The University has enrolled several students in this program for the fall semester. Individuals who complete informally approved programs will be eligible to receive licensure in Massachusetts, but may not enjoy full reciprocity benefits for licensure in other states that have signed the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Interstate Agreement with Massachusetts. Full reciprocity benefits are available after formal program approval has been granted.