Art Institute is awesome.

I have to say that I am very happy with my decision to pursue a teaching job at the Art Institute. I’ve taught two courses for the past two weeks. It’s going very well so far.

My coworkers are easy to get along with. The support staff is very supportive.

My students are very engaged in the lessons. A couple of them sneak in online games and texting, but even they are keeping up with everything going on in class. A few ask some really great questions and show some real promise as designers.

The school seems to provide free pizza and drinks on a regular basis. Last Wednesday there was a presentation by the president of the school and a few of the staff members. They brought in so many pizzas that there were still stacks of them when I left an hour later. The school is growing, and has all kinds of plans for events and community-building. Love it.

My experience at AI is so go that I’d jump at the chance at a full load (4) classes if they offered it next quarter. My lack of a Masters may be an obstacle. If all continues to go well, I’ll have to finish up my Masters in teaching.

Business is slow for Blue Lobster Art, but may pick up after persistent marketing and networking efforts over the next few months. Money may be tight through the end of the year, but things are looking up!

Busy Week, End of a Brief Career, Some Great News

I’m winding down my high school teaching career this week. My final day of teaching high school classes, perhaps for good, is this Friday. I taught high school full time for the past three years. If you want to know why I am deciding to leave this glamorous and rewarding career, check out my recent posts below.

The good, great, fantastic news is that I get to go back to teaching college kids (and adults) in July. I got a part-time teaching position at the Art Institute, where I will have two web design classes. Each class is four hours long, once per week, for an eleven-week quarter. I could perhaps have taught there full-time, but I want to keep my schedule open for all the freelance design work I hope to pull in.

My other good news is that I have decided to create a new side business for myself (in addition to Blue Lobster Art and Design). Some of my tutorials at BluLob have been very popular. However, I’ve been kind of all-over-the-map with what I create. For the past year or so I’ve been thinking about writing a Photoshop tutorial book geared toward the classroom. So, instead of cranking out a new tutorial a couple of times a week in random order, I’m getting organized. I want to create a comprehensive curriculum and have it all online. This new effort will appear in due time at

Here’s the synopsis:

Art and design lessons tailored for the classroom:

  • 45-minute daily lessons
  • 10 lessons per unit
  • 60 lessons per course
  • Instructor guides
  • Unit reviews
  • Unit projects with rubrics
  • Unit quizzes


  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Dreamweaver
  • HTML and XHTML
  • CSS
  • design principles
  • drawing
  • and more!

My slogan is Daily Doses of Smart™.

I hope to build the site to

  • offer 60 lessons for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels
  • invite guest teachers
  • cater to people learning on their own as well, perhaps providing paid coaching
  • eventually provide a social networking/community setting

Some of the materials will be free, and others will be available at affordable prices. Banner ads alone do not pay the bills, I have found.

I’ve put together a rough outline for the three levels of Photoshop courses. I’d love to have your feedback on this venture. Is the concept of interest to you? What would you want to see offered?

Sorry to my Commenters; Sorry District News

Now that I am mainly blogging at, I haven’t checked for comments in a while. The last six comments have been approved. Thank you for all the kind words.

I am writing again today because I have to say that the school really did me a favor by getting rid of me in February. At least I have had time to prepare for my next source of income (back to freelancing). I work at Natomas Unified in Sacramento, and the budget news that comes today is particularly grim.

The high school will no longer have a real police officer on campus. At least 40 more people will be laid off. The grand jury is investigating old real estate deals.

It gets worse. These are the cutbacks approved last night:

  • Reassign teachers facing layoff s into a pool of longterm substitute teachers, savings to be determined – potentially up to $1 million
  • Increase class sizes in grades 2 and 3 to 30 students to 1 teacher, $750,000
  • Close under-enrolled Regional Occupational Program (ROP) classes, $232,000
  • Increase student meal prices by 50 cents and open new points of sale at Natomas High ’s Terrace Cafe to generate more sales, $230,000
  • Cut 2.5 positions for secondary social studies, $145,000
  • Make further reductions in the support staff at the Education Center, $166,000
  • Increase the distance students walk before busing is provided, $100,000
  • Eliminate an unfilled elementary vice principal position, $96,000
  • Reduce use of the Tungsten program, $45,000
  • Cancel elementary summer school but keep high school summer school  (middle school summer school will be addressed next week), $28,000
  • Implement further energy savings including keeping the swimming pool at Natomas High open only June-September and turning off the stadium lights at Natomas High and Inderkum High in the evenings, $24,500
  • Trim staff development budget for certificated staff, $21,516
  • Reduce the contribution to the Natomas Schools Foundation, $16,000
  • Reduce  school decentralized supply budgets by 10 percent, $70,000

And here’s what they will discuss next week because they are still $5 short:

  • Closing schools, $300,000 to $400,000
  • Temporarily closing Bannon Creek Elementary for construction safety concerns during the conversion of the campus from a K-5 to a K-8 school (this construction project is using bond dollars that cannot be used for other expenses such as staff salaries and student supplies), $250,000
  • Authorizing targeted layoffs, variable savings
  • Eliminating athletics, $357,425
  • Putting more/all schools on multi-track year-round schedules with a school closure, $400,000
  • Having a four-day school week, $250,000
  • More energy savings that include letting our lawns go brown, $40,000 or more
  • Not purchasing school workbooks, $300,000
  • Eliminating all bus transportation except for special education students (a mandated service), $862,000
  • Eliminating all Tier III categorical programs, $1.4 million
  • Staff furloughs, variable savings
  • Eliminating P.E. for high school juniors and seniors and only offering the class at the freshman/sophomore level, $232,000
  • Further review of increasing class sizes at the K-1 level ( the Board already approved increasing class sizes at every grade level by 1), savings to be determined

Finally, the teachers that stick around have this to look forward to:

  • Freez e step-and-column increase s, $1.68 million or the equivalent of 29 teaching positions
  • Implement furlough days, $283,363 per each furlough day or the equivalent of 5 teaching positions
  • 3 percent salary reduction for all employees and administrators, $1.644 million or the equivalent of 28 teaching positions
  • Eliminate compensation for class size overages, $236,000 or the equivalent of 4 teaching positions

I can’t think of a better time to leave public school teaching. Luckily, I have a potential college teaching job (part-time) lined up at the Art Institute.

Now that I’m out, I’m invisible

Another lesson learned: when you are contributing to a school, make sure that you tell admin about every single thing you do, especially if is in a digital form that can be emailed wherever without a credit line. Sometimes even when you tell them you still get screwed.

A few months ago, I drew portraits of several students and gave them to the students as gifts. Through a series of emails, which involved my permission to publish one of the portraits (with credit) in the yearbook, this same image ended up being used in the school’s WASC report without permission nor credit. Because I was let go and not told why, I am a tad bitter. I found it highly distasteful that they would use my work in this way, showcasing how great our school and its teachers are. Especially without asking me. I sent the admin a “cease and desist” email that also asked for them to give me credit for my work. I had, in fact, told everyone about the portraits right after I had done them, so admin could not please ignorance. After a week, they did email the campus, apologized, and gave me credit.

In another example from right before I was let go, I spent hours designing a T-shirt for our “Every 15 Minutes” event this week. I received thanks from the screen printing teacher, which was great. However, admin never thanked me. And now I’ve got here in my hands a program for today’s assembly. It has my T-shirt design featured on the cover. It has a section for acknowledgments and thanks to everyone who helped make “Every 15 Minutes” happen. I’ll let you guess who wasn’t thanked. If you guessed “Dawn Pedersen”, you are correct.

What do you think I should do?