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What the Art Teacher Who Took Almost Every Single AOE Class Really Thinks

If you’ve been wondering what it’s really like to take a course with AOE, today’s your lucky day! Jeremy Pidhirny, a high school art teacher in Sewickley, Pennsylvania is here to answer all of your burning questions. What makes Jeremy qualified? Well, for starters, he’s taken eighteen out of the twenty-one courses currently offered by AOE.

Jeremy HeadshotI first met Jeremy in September of 2015 when he took the iPads in the Art Room course. At that point, he already had nine AOE classes under his belt, but it was my first time encountering Jeremy as a student. Thankfully, it was not the last, and I had the pleasure of teaching several more courses with Jeremy in attendance.

I thought he would be the perfect person to give an honest opinion about what it’s like to take a course from The Art of Education. Let’s get started.

Q: Are the courses hard?

When asked, Jeremy said he wouldn’t describe the courses as hard, but he would describe them as rigorous and relevant, adding, “They do require work, actual work. You will have to read, reflect, do, create, and most importantly think. I spend a great deal of time just thinking: How can I apply this to my situation? Can I change this to work in my room?”

And that’s where the relevance comes in. Because although you’re enrolled in a graduate level course where we’re asking you to dig deep, all of that hard work pays off in new ideas and resources you can directly use in your classroom.

Q: How much time does a course take?

Jeremy said, “For me, it seems to depend on three things: my interest in the material, my classmates, and my available time.”

He went on to describe that sometimes he gets really into a topic and spends a lot of outside time reading and researching on his own. Other times, there are other topics and assignments that don’t quite grab him the same way. In those cases, he simply does the assignment and moves on. 

In the same way, Jeremy said the discussion boards can take up more or less time depending on how willing and available everyone is to engage with certain topics. Sometimes students simply complete the required responses, while other times discussions get quite lengthy and engaging.

If you’re looking for more of the nitty-gritty details on the time you’ll need to complete a course, check out the helpful article, “Finding the Time to Take an Online Course,” by AOE’s Educational Director, Heather Crockett.

Jeremy's Drawing
Jeremy’s take on an assignment from Studio: Drawing where students were asked to put a new twist on a still-life or portrait drawing lesson

Q: How affordable is taking a course with AOE compared to other options?

Like many readers, Jeremy had a few options to consider when looking for graduate credits. He says, compared to all of his other options, AOE was very affordable and a much better value. This is especially true because Jeremy’s district reimburses him for some of the cost. If you’re contemplating taking a course, make sure you ask if this is an option for you, too!

Jeremy also pointed out that the real value of a course is in how much you get out of it saying, “While I was taking classes to advance on the salary scale, that wasn’t the main goal. Once I took a couple of classes, I enjoyed them and wanted to take more. Their most important value is not monetary, it is relevancy.”

Nothing is going to be as relevant to your work with students as a course designed specifically for art teachers!

Q: Do you actually learn anything new?

Here, Jeremy gave a resounding “YES!” As I said, Jeremy has taken eighteen of the courses AOE currently offers saying, “I have gotten something out of every single one. Some classes I get more out of than others, but EVERY class has something that has been put to use in my room.”

He went on to explain there are times when course material may not pertain 100% to the grade level you teach. Other times a course may cover a topic you already know about. But that’s okay! “Like anything else,” he told me, “you get just what you put in.”

Plus, since you are constantly sharing information and ideas with other course participants, you will always have new ideas to try out in your classroom. Jeremy advises anyone taking a course to save everything saying, “I have appropriated many lesson ideas, process boards, materials, and other resources from my many classmates. I saved every post I ever wrote and have gone back and referenced them many times. I use them in department meetings, discussions and evaluations. For example, just a few weeks ago I used a video from Johanna Russell on 4-5 point perspective with my students. I also shared a process board I made in Studio: Ceramics with one of my AP students and now she is using the technique in her own work.”

He summed it up nicely with, “It has always been my belief that you don’t get an education–you take it–and I would advise you to take everything you can.”

resources Jeremy created
two responses to assignments from the Reaching All Artists Through Differentiation course

Q: What were the instructors like?

It made me so happy to hear what Jeremy had to say about our team of instructors. He said, “All of the instructors have been wonderful. Everyone seems invested in the program and does a great job. I have had numerous classes with some of the same instructors and they are really great people. Some push the students to write posts that are a little more academic while others push us to be more expressive. All of them have their own approach, but all of them are effective. I can’t say that I have ever had an unsatisfactory or negative interaction with any of them.”

Jeremy went on to say that all of the instructors he’s encountered have been extremely knowledgeable about the content and have been quick to respond to questions.

“The instructors really seem to be passionate about the material and want to help you become a better teacher,” he said.

a linoleum print from a series Jeremy completed in Studio: Printmaking in which he explored different methods
a linoleum print from a series Jeremy completed in Studio: Printmaking in which he explored different printmaking methods

Q: How has your coursework directly impacted your teaching?

Jeremy said he uses some aspect of his learning from AOE nearly every day. And, as mentioned above, uses many of the ideas from his peers and teachers, too.

Jeremy also credits his coursework from AOE in helping him earn a stellar evaluation. His evaluation is mostly based on the Danielson Model and he earned a “Distinguished” in all four categories! He specifically mentioned how the course Choice Based Art Education changed his teaching approach and helped him become “Distinguished” in Domain 3, “Engaging Students in Learning.” He said, “In AOE’s Choice Based Art Education, I learned the value of offering the students some choice in their projects. I allow the students the choice of modifying or changing some of the rules of my projects if they can offer an artistic reason. This choice allows the students to make the learning more relevant, to stretch further, and to apply other learning.”

Q: Do you have a favorite course?

Jeremy said that it is hard to choose a favorite. However, he did say that the Studio courses have “all been superb and a lot of fun.” He elaborated by saying, “Studio: Printmaking was probably my favorite. I never had a great deal of exposure to printmaking other than some silkscreen in high school so I learned a ton of interesting things to use in the classroom. I think just taking the time to create was very valuable. In one of the courses we were asked to go on an “Art Date” with ourselves which was a lot of fun, and the Studio classes are an extension of that.”

Jeremy has been kind enough to put together some tips for the beginning AOE student. Even if you have already taken a class, you may find his pointers helpful. Download your own copy and refer to it to make your experience the best it possibly can be! 

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Did any of Jeremy’s answers surprise you?

Do you have any other questions about taking an AOE course?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

Theresa Gillespie

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Theresa is an art educator with 20 years of experience. She has expertise in multiple areas of art education with a special interest in technology integration.

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