15:02 PM

New Program to Pave Path for More Arts Teachers in Schools

By Brian Hiro

Grace Davis could sing almost before she could talk.

She grew up in Vista in a household where music was the background noise of life. Her father’s side of the family is populated with music teachers and choir directors, and during the holidays especially, the whole clan would congregate to play instruments or sing hymns.

Davis attended an elementary school where music education was strongly emphasized, and she began to come out of her shell through musical theater.

“Music is something that brings my family together and gives me joy,” Davis said. “It’s something I’ve been surrounded with my whole life.”

When Davis enrolled as a student at Cal State San Marcos in 2018, however, she did so with the intention of pursuing a major in literature and writing studies. She wanted to become a teacher like those who had inspired her as a child, but English struck her as a far more plausible discipline than music, or the arts in general. Such jobs, she reasoned, don’t exactly grow on trees.

In California, though, suddenly they might. In November 2022, the state’s voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 28, which will provide about $1 billion in funding each year to support arts education in public schools. Schools must spend 80% of that money on teachers and aides, which means that California has an overnight need for about 15,000 teachers in the arts, and San Diego County for about 500 such teachers.

This marks a sea change in the field of arts education, and CSUSM now is well-positioned to be a leader in the space. The university has received grants of $308,260 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and $50,000 from the Clarence E. Heller Foundation to launch a program that will streamline the process for CSUSM students to become arts teachers.

Under the new CSUSM Art Credential Pathway, the university will be the first in the CSU system to create a pathway specifically for undergraduate arts majors who aspire to teach. Center ARTES, an organization dedicated to arts education and integration in K-12 schools that was founded by CSUSM music professor Merryl Goldberg in 2003, will partner with the university’s School of Arts and School of Education to develop and implement the pathway to prepare CSUSM arts students to reimagine high-quality arts education for the San Diego region and serve as a model for the state.

The future arts teachers will be recruited from CSUSM’s undergraduate arts and liberal studies students, as well as teaching artists and existing teachers in the San Diego community.

“We’re setting the course on this,” Goldberg said. “We’re not the only CSU that’s doing any work in this area, but we’re way ahead of the curve in terms of the partnering of the School of Arts and School of Education. That makes us a standout.”

To be able to teach in the arts, students typically need to earn a single-subject teaching credential in the arts, which CSUSM does not yet offer. What the new pathway will do is allow undergraduate arts and liberal studies students to complete a one-year multiple-subject credential program as long as they have accumulated 20 credits of arts classes, which could be dance, music, theater or visual arts.

“In the past, we haven’t really looked at that as a viable option for our students because there haven’t been jobs in the arts,” Goldberg said. “But now that there are probably 500 jobs alone in San Diego, this is such a no-brainer way to get our students into this career path.”

Working with Goldberg to institute the program is a team of faculty that includes education professor Christiane Wood, dance professor Cherie Hill, theater professor Judy Bauerlein and media arts professors Lucy HG Solomon, Kristin Moss and Julie Goldstein.

“This program is a game-changer for students looking to impact children’s lives through the arts,” Hill said. “I am excited that this pathway will cultivate future dance and arts educators.”

“Our on-the-ground efforts should translate to increasing the arts in schools and helping CSUSM students and area artists get jobs in the arts,” Solomon said. “In the not-so-distant future, we will be admitting new undergraduate students who have had classes in the arts throughout their education in the public schools. And it is likely that CSUSM alumni will have taught them. That’s exciting!”

“This initiative provides an opportunity to transform the arts education landscape by nurturing talent, igniting creativity and equipping future educators with the skills and knowledge to inspire the next generation of artists, serving as a blueprint for the state of California in support of Prop 28,” Wood said.

Planning and development of the pathway program started this semester and will continue in the spring. CSUSM also will seek to solidify connections with local arts organizations and teaching artists that will serve as partners in the program, including the Museum of Making Music, New Village Arts, The Old Globe, A Step Beyond and the Oceanside Museum of Art.

The first cohort of students pursuing a credential to teach the arts will launch next fall. Goldberg says the goal is to recruit 24 students for the yearlong program. The foundation funding will last for three years, meaning that there will be at least two cohorts.

Many of those two dozen future teachers were on campus Saturday, Nov. 4 when CSUSM hosted a workshop in the Arts Building that drew more than 75 people. The event introduced attendees to the road to becoming an elementary arts teacher in the areas of dance, theater, music, visual and media art. It featured activities, a panel with current arts teachers and an information session about the different ways to pursue a career in arts education.

“There was definitely a buzz of excitement there; it was just a really bright energy,” said Davis, one of the attendees. “A lot of the people on hand had no intention of being art teachers before Prop 28 passed. They just wanted to teach elementary education or maybe high school history or something. But now you can do both in the same program. I think that that's so wonderful, opening up these opportunities for people who might have never considered arts education.”

While she studied literature at CSUSM, Davis decided to take a couple of music classes just for fun, and she enjoyed them so much that she added music as a second major in 2020. She will graduate as a double major this month (though she’s walking in the spring) and take three pre-credential program classes next semester before joining the first arts pathway cohort in fall 2024.

When she’s not taking classes, Davis gives private voice lessons (she has sung at several CSUSM commencement ceremonies over the years) and teaches in after-school music theater programs at a couple of elementary schools in Escondido. Her goal is to teach both music and English at a school in San Diego County, preferably one where arts resources aren’t as bountiful and her skills are more needed.

“I've always been a huge advocate for arts teaching, especially in primary education,” she said. “I think it's so important to introduce kids to art at a young age. It inspires you to be a better person and motivates you; it's a great way to express yourself and to have a voice in the classroom. So I was really excited to hear that the state was pushing arts education a little bit more heavily.”

Media Contact

Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist

bhiro@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7306