AP Art Teacher help! AMA - Ask Me Anything! #ama #APArtteacherhelp

Sherry Ross
Jan 9, 2018

Hi!  I'm Sherry and I've been an AP Art teacher for over 15 years.  For the last four years, I've had the amazing honor of being asked to be an AP reader.  It really is the best professional development in the world for teaching AP Art.  Everyone there is so kind and eager to share and I've learned so much.

I know that starting an AP Art program is daunting.  I'm willing to share organizational tips, lesson plans, and give feedback to help you help your students be successful.  Don't tear out your hair - post your questions and I'll give it a shot!

Other teachers have helped me so much, and I really believe that we should pay it forward.  Please drop by and leave me a message, I'm glad to help anyway I can.

As a teacher, ( I have ten preps - including 4/5 AP ones) I know how hard it is to make my own art, so I am forcing myself to remedy that. Currently, I have a kickstarter to attend a professional development Chine Colle printmaking workshop.  I'll leave the link here.  It shows some of my work, things that I did as lesson plan prep.  Depending on how this AMA goes, I might come back and answer questions about that.  :)  I'm super excited!


Comments are locked

Conversation (44)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

Do you have other sources of funds apart from the Kickstarter?

Jan 5, 12:31AM EST0

My school had said they'd pay for the workshop since it was professional development, but later said they couldn't.  Since I really wanted to go, I figured I'd just have to pay for it.

However, another AP reader was telling me to try a kickstarter because it's how he does all of his workshops.  He's backed me already "paying it forward".  Since the kickstarter is all or nothing, if I don't make my goal..... it's on my dime.  :)

Jan 5, 10:39PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

As an AP reader, how are you able to teach and give scores to each work?

Jan 4, 11:16PM EST0

The actual READING of the portfolios occurs for one week in June. 150 high school and college art teachers are invited to come to Salt Lake City.  We are flown in  from all over and grade portfolios submitted from everywhere in the world.  Last year, we graded 59,000 portfolios.  Each portfolio has three sections, and two readers randomly grade each section of Breadth and Concentration.  Three readers grade the quality sections.  This makes sure it is fair - we go through extensive standard setting to ensure that we all have internalized the rubric and understand what each score band represents. 

When I leave, I  take back that training and I can accurately assess how my students will score (while they are doing the work) the following year.  I make suggestions on how to improve the work.

During the actual reading, if I am randomly given my student's work, I must defer it.  It's very rare to receive your student with the large quantity of portfolios we get.  Astoundingly, I've had my student's work four or five times, others have never seen theirs.  I just passed on them and went on to the next one.

Jan 4, 11:47PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

What is your teaching philosophy and what method works?

Jan 4, 6:28PM EST0

Simply, my philosophy is that everyone can learn.  :) Since people learn in different ways, I usually start by showing a powerpoint of examples , sometimes a step by step process and explaining the concept.  Then, I give parameters of the project.  I present the problem and tell them "how they solve the problem is the art" and that there can be 1000 equally viable ways to solve it.  Each person addresses it in their own way, none is more valid than the next provided it meets the criteria I've given so that they demonstrate mastery.

Next, I do a demonstration to again provide step by step visual instruction.  Sometimes, I purposely "mess up" to show how to correct something or provide them with a "nothing's perfect" understanding.

Finally, they work on their pieces, we discuss progress and critque their work.  If they have any individual concerns or are having problems doing something they need to do, I provide individual instruction and practice for mastery.  I think it's very important that students master the concepts BUT maintain their voice in the direction and design of their pieces. :)

Jan 4, 10:24PM EST0

Apart from the Sante Fe Chine Colle workshop, what other workshops have you attended or plan to attend?

Jan 4, 2:39AM EST0

I've attended numerous AP workshops for Art and Art History.  I've done lots of local workshops, such as gel printing, encaustic, alternate printing, etc........ but this is my first on this level.  I'm VERY EXCITED to work with a Master Printmaker and learn from him.  As I do with anything I attend, I go back and show the kids and we play!

 I do lots of "self teaching" as well and I am very experimental with working with the kids, sometimes we do things to push boundaries.

Jan 4, 10:15PM EST0

What are the challenges of setting up an AP Art Program?

Jan 3, 11:41PM EST0

My former art supervisor said that it takes 2 - 3 years to establish an AP Art program.

I like having my students from level one on up.  That way I know what they know and I can provide continuous instruction working with their strengths and weaknesses.

If you are trying to start one from scratch, getting student and admin buyin is important. Completing the AP portofolio is a year long, intensive committment for my students AFTER they've gone through at least a year, hopefully two or three of lower level classes to hone their skills.  Students need to understand the volume of work and the time constraints to produce 24 pieces of college level work.

Admin needs to buy in to make sure that the teacher receives college board training, gets adequate funding, and that only students prepared to make the commitment are placed in the class.  Some schools randomly place kids in AP and to me, that's just setting a kid up for failure.  It's horribly unfair and self esteem crushing.

Jan 4, 10:03PM EST0

Do you also keep a studio and what's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Jan 3, 2:33PM EST0


I have space in my home and I work in my classroom.  I find that it inspires the kids for me to work in front of them.  New students always watch and say "Wait....... you can draw (or paint or whatever)?"  I laugh and tell them they aren't surprised the Geometry teacher can "geom". 

My favorite thing in my studio would be a good size 6 watercolor brush.  It's just the right size for anything!  I can use it for most detail work or washes.  I have to multi task lots of times and I find it's just a workhorse for me.  Other favorites are Ebony pencils or Caran D"Arche watercolor pencils.  I like the flexibility of being able to use them wet or dry.

Jan 3, 4:38PM EST0

What's your favorite place to see art and why? And what international art destination do you most want to visit?

Jan 3, 11:02AM EST0

I enjoy looking for art in the everyday........ I tell students that "art is showing someone something they might have seen before, but showing it to them in a way only YOU can show them".  This is especially true with photography!

I'm lucky enough to be traveling to Greece and Italy this summer as faculty advisor for a student trip.  However, I have the opportunity to go to Madrid this spring and I'm very excited to go to the Prado .  I'll get to see Goya's work, he's always been my favorite painter.

Jan 3, 4:45PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

How do you spot a potentially creative and artistic student and what mentoring do you usually give to encourage them?

Jan 3, 10:51AM EST0

I think it's important to understand that ANYONE can be creative...... but everyone has that capacity, it might just be in a realm other than art.

I find that some of my most dedicated students might not be the most naturally talented.  But they WORK HARD to push themselves to improve like someone with a "gift" might not.  I try to dispell the notion that you have to be born with it or not.  I want everyone to find a creative outlet that suits them.

When I lesson plan, I assess student strengths and design projects to give them easy success....... conversely, I assess areas in need of improvement and design for that as well.  One of my super tight drawing students was terrified she'd "make a mistake" so I assigned her a series of blind contour drawings and to add color.   At first, she fought it, but then she grew to love it........ she did her AP concentration with them and has sold quite a few.  She's learned to push herself and expand her horizons without fearing that things won't be "perfect".

Jan 3, 5:00PM EST0

What is your creative process like and how would you describe your style in most of your artwork?

Jan 3, 9:04AM EST0

I find that I explore themes in my work depending on my current interests - currently I like the idea of reflection, distortion, and obfuscation of imagery.   I use it in my photography, and then take those images  to paint or draw.  In the conversion process, I make sure to use "the richness of color" - again building up by layering to create something new.

I used to be a photorealist, but I find as I grow older , I tend to use that as an element in a more abstract composition. It reads as so much more complex psycologically to me.  If you'd like to see what I mean, click on my kickstarter link........ the main image is what I'm talking about. :)

Jan 3, 7:45PM EST0

Apart from being a teacher and of course the affinity for art, what other hobbies or interests do you have?

Jan 3, 8:49AM EST0

I love to knit and I might be known to hoard a few chickens.

Jan 3, 7:32PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

As an educator for many years, what motivates you to keep going?

Jan 3, 8:13AM EST0

I tell my students that if I do my job correctly, I'm preparing them to leave me.  Oddly, if I do my job correctly, I will miss them more than they miss me. lol  There are always new students to guide into adulthood and leave me again.  :)

Jan 3, 7:53PM EST0

Can you tell us about your educational background and how you started out your career?

Jan 3, 7:41AM EST0

When I was getting an Art degree people always asked me what I was going to do with it.  I joked that I could always manage a pizza hut.  I'd never really thought about being a teacher.  When I graduated, my father, a teacher, said GET A JOB.  I found a job as a home ec teacher in an all special ed school.  I loved working with those kids.  Eventually, they created an art position for me and it just got better. 

Since then, I've gone on to receive my M. Ed in Educational Leadership and was a Dean of Students for awhile, but I missed the classroom.

Jan 3, 7:58PM EST0

What materials or resources have you used in order for your students to explore their learning activities?

Jan 3, 7:29AM EST0

When I design a project, not only do I have to think about what and why students need to learn something, I have to contemplate the HOW.  That is where the media comes in.  I try to teach a variety of media and techniques with my level ones, and then my upper levels we work toward mastery. 

The media could watercolor, colored pencils, mixed media, etc....... sometimes, I give a non media specfic assignment which will be more about a concept and then they are allowed to select whatever media they feel will be able to communicate what they wish to say.

Jan 3, 8:01PM EST0

Who is your greatest mentor or influencer?

Jan 3, 7:23AM EST0

I had mentors in college and they influenced the way I thought about art in general.  Over my body of work, I'd say Georgia O"Keefe, as I love how her colors vibrate with other color within a "single color" or Goya, as I just love his Screw You All approach to life and art.

Jan 3, 8:38PM EST0

Do you know of any under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work that you wish people would know about?

Jan 3, 6:27AM EST0

I think every community has a little community gallery that needs their support or patronage and they need your support.  Their work - supporting local artists, of giving them hope and an outlet for their work, and also exposing the community to art in general is important!

Jan 3, 8:30PM EST0

What do you think are the biggest struggles of an artist?

Jan 3, 6:02AM EST0

With my students, I find the biggest struggle is conceptualism.  The fear of the blank page, the  fear of making a mistake, of it not being enough. The WHAT DO I DRAW?  Sometimes, It's ok to draw a really beautiful picture of a flower...... it worked for hundreds of years.  Other times, you need something deeper, give yourself permision to explore and play without fear of failure.

Jan 3, 8:26PM EST0

How do you see the role or importance of a traditional printmaking in a society that encourages artistic experiment and digital art?

Jan 3, 4:51AM EST0

I really reacted to this question and thought "Crap that's insightful".  Hopefully, my answer will be as erudite. 

In fairness, I'm not primarily a printmaker.  Printmakers are exacting and logical in their processes, me......... not so much. When I do printmaking it's more a collograph or monoprint.  Usually, i'm drawn to the second print or even a ghost print.  That's where I find the "meat" of what I want - the bones to go back in and embellish to my will.  I did a series and I called them personal Rorshachs because of the way I took apart images and rebuilt them.  I find printmaking to be something I can do this with as well.

So, setting aside the "perfect" print....... I go back into my imperfect ones and create very different results from the "same" plate.  I think this is more due to my inability to be precise rather than a disregard for a traditional printmaker.  I admire their work, I just cannot be that person, so I make it my own.  I don't think either is more or less valid than the other, just different.  I hope that answers your question..

Jan 3, 8:19PM EST0
What advice can you give to aspiring artists out there?
Jan 3, 2:30AM EST0

Marry well and keep yourself in paints.  LOL

Honestly, I'd say always be looking and exploring.  Photograph everything always be moving around, trying to see things others miss.  I enjoy the art of everyday - the things everyone else missed. 

PRACTICE, regularly.  I've noticed that when I haven't drawn recently....... it's not as free when I pick it up again.  My students are given sketchbook assignments to practice and instinctualize whatever concept I'm teaching.  Let yourself grow, no matter where it takes you, and buy a good eraser.

Jan 3, 8:10PM EST0
About #ArtistAMA

Welcome to #ArtistAMA, an AMA Event channel for artists and their important work sharing their knowledge and art with others.

The #ArtistAMA channel (http://www.ArtistAMA.com) is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.