Tap into your artistic side on the first Friday of every month. We showcase Arizona art educators committed to making a difference.
Ask National Board Certified Teacher Jen Pulbratek why she chose a career in art and it might sound too good to be true. But, then inquire whether or not art is an innate skill and you might not get the answer you would expect. While arts came natural to the wife and mother of two, she stresses artistic skills can be learned, mastered, and molded into a career.
Not many people can say their profession stemmed from a decision to start a sketch book and an art portfolio in second grade, but the Arcadia High School graduate can.
“It was all my own idea, and thankfully my parents were really supportive. In high school, I participated in theatre, not taking an art class until senior year. Entering college, I was a theatre major, but I found I loved my sculpture and costume construction classes the best,” Pulbratek says. “After a lot of encouragement from my sculpture professor I switched my major to art.”
Thereafter, the Northern Arizona University alumna says it was the opportunity to teach a first-year experience class, an introduction course for incoming college students, that solidified her calling as a teacher.
Be it a full-fledged vocation or simply an alternative interest, the Dysart High School employee explains art education can motivate students in ways other subjects cannot. To her, there’s almost some sort of magic within.
“I was completely uninterested in school with the exception of art. I think non-verbal and kinesthetic learners are often missed. If these skills are nurtured, they will do better in all courses,” she suggests. “It is important for a person to be able to make something and be proud of it. People also don’t realize that art is a skill that can be learned, like driving. Art should not be discounted for those who say ‘I’m just not creative.’ These skills can be learned, and creativity is an essential skill for a successful life.”
If you’re biting the bait, you will also appreciate that Pulbratek, who will begin her 14th year teaching in August, says her own biggest learning moments have derived from the utmost challenging experiences.
“When my lessons are huge failures, that is when I can grow the most. I have learned that I have to be willing to change based on student need. I cannot to be afraid to fail in teaching a lesson.”
It’s no wonder her favorite quote is by Albert Einstein: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” But, what does failure in an art setting look like — the wrong color selection, an incorrect stroke, or a broken piece of pottery?
“At times I need to be innovative and experimental in teaching in order to avoid becoming stagnant. In turn, I have to tell kids when I have made a mistake,” she says. Through on-the-spot problem solving, Pulbratek instills more than art strategy, but everyday tactics for personal success. Adaptability, onus, and accountability will stick with learners for a lifetime.
Even more, what keeps the Sia-singing, karate-loving, and cheese aficionado dedicated to the cause? She says she consciously chooses to “find awesomeness in every kid every day.”