Alumni Profile - Jackieraye Barr
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Art Education
Why did you choose Millersville University?
I received an academic passport scholarship after attending Harrisburg Area Community College. The “passport” allowed me to choose from any of the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education at which to complete my undergraduate degree. I chose Millersville because it was within driving distance of my home and many nearby cities. Additionally, it was one of the few schools in South-central Pennsylvania that offered an art education program and Millersville had a reputation for producing fine teachers.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
I was always extremely artistic and creative as a child, but my emotions didn’t mature as quickly as my brain. I never really thought about sharing my abilities with others until it came time to pick a major for college. I graduated high school in the late 1990s with the full intention of obtaining my art teaching degree from Penn State. Stressful events happened in my life and I left college to pursue other options; on the job training as a dental assistant and a brief run as a cosmetologist. I knew in my heart I was given strong creative, academic and social gifts, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my other career choices.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in teaching?
My younger brother Tyler, who works in early childhood intervention, sat me down about six years ago and gave me a “talking to”. He knew I had been feeling unfulfilled and searching for meaning in my career. Tyler helped me to make the final leap back into a four-year program to finish what I started many years ago and encouraged me that I could be successful despite not having studied math for over a decade!
Where are you teaching now?
I am proud to be an elementary art teacher in Carlisle Area School District and am surrounded by an amazing support team.
Did you feel well prepared for your teaching position?
I felt ready to take on a classroom as soon as I had graduated because I had worked in many part-time childcare or teaching related jobs while enrolled at Millersville.
How do you feel Millersville contributed to your preparedness?
The art department faculty at Millersville really showed deep interest and appreciation for my drive and work ethic, and were always willing to assist in any way needed. Jeri Robinson-Lawrence spent numerous hours assisting me with tricky things like scheduling classes and making phone calls. Dr. Leslie Gates continues to be a mentor to me. She has truly brought new life into the Art Education department through her involvement in organizations like Pennsylvania Art Education Association and by introducing the upcoming generation of art teachers to progressive theories on choice-based arts education and other non-traditional practices.
Did you hold any jobs between graduation and landing your position?
Because the field of art education is highly competitive and it is difficult to land an interview, I worked at the York Jewish Community Center in York, Pa. while I sought a full-time position in a public school. I loved that job, but it was strictly part-time and not supporting me financially, so I continued to submit 65 applications to various schools in the region over the course of a year. I also taught on occasion at the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center.
How did they contribute to your professional life?
Working in facilities that service a very diverse, demanding population really challenged me to be flexible in classroom management styles. I learned self-discipline, timing, planning and organization skills. Perhaps most importantly, I gained confidence in communicating with parents, directors, management, students and fellow employees.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
I love the relationships and bonds created between teacher and student. When a child feels comfortable enough to make mistakes in the classroom because he or she trusts in himself or herself to work through a problem, I feel great joy and pride.
Were you a part of any clubs or organizations during your time at MU?
I volunteered outside of the University and was also inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education.
Do you have any heroes or a quote you like to live by?
My husband was my life support during my undergraduate experience. He stuck through four years of my insane schedules, he financially supported us during my time at Millersville, and he sacrificed living spaces and long commutes. Money was tight, but we made it work. He’s my hero. As for quotes, I heard this one a while ago in school and it has stuck with me, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday and all is well.”
What is one piece of advice you would give to students at MU looking for teaching jobs?
It will likely be very challenging and competitive to find a career, and you might be tempted to settle for anything out of frustration. Treat college like your job and you’ll have an edge over people who just barely get by. Be wise and stay involved in organizations related to your specific field, those professors and connections will be your cheerleaders. If you are young in the field and have little experience beyond student teaching, try to substitute teach, volunteer, work in child care or a related field to build confidence in your classroom management skills until you receive an offer you can believe in. Whatever you do, don’t give up.