Indiana State University Newsroom

Students take on teaching roles at the Community School of the Arts

October 21, 2014

It's a Saturday at Indiana State University, but that doesn't mean classes are done for students such as Sarah Cole. Instead, she's headed across campus for a 10 a.m. session. The subject? Painting and drawing -- her passions.

But when Cole steps into the classroom, she won't find a professor or classmates.

She'll be greeted by a room full of children.

These youngsters are here to learn visual art. They've signed up with Indiana State's Community School of the Arts for "Pencils and Paints," a class designed and taught by Cole. It's just one of many CSA classes that are taught by more than two dozen of the university's talented student instructors. They help make possible the CSA's mission: bringing the arts to the community.

With their student instructors' help, the CSA offers a uniquely comprehensive opportunity for both adults and children to learn the arts. People of all skill levels and economic circumstances can take private lessons or classes in four areas: dance, music, art and theater.

"In one location, they offer African drumming, guitar, sculpture and everything," said student instructor Bob Randolph, a junior theater major from Terre Haute. "They offer high-quality instruction, and it doesn't cost students an arm and a leg to do it."

And it's little wonder why student instructors play an important part in what the CSA does. Totaling to about 34 student instructors, they make up more than half of the CSA's teaching staff. They bring their bright minds, ideas and energy, said Petra Nyendick, director of the CSA.

So what do student instructors get out of their experience at the CSA? An unparalleled opportunity to teach subjects they love, not to mention personal and professional development.

"Teaching is something I've always wanted to do," said Cole, a native of Mount Summit, Ind. who is working on the second year of her Master of Fine Arts degree. "I just love being an art teacher, because I love art. It's a savior. It's done so much for me, and I want to give that to my students."

Cole became a CSA instructor this summer, bringing with her two years of teaching experience. Her involvement with the CSA has not only let her do what she loves, but has also influenced her post-graduation plans. She initially intended to complete an M.F.A. to be able to teach in schools all the way up to the college level, but now she wants to be part of organizations like the CSA.

"I want to be part of the community and do outreach and engagement," she said. "It has definitely changed my idea of how I want to be a part of the arts and donate my time."

The student instructor experience also taps an opportunity for significant professional development. A resume with "student instructor" on it helps pave the way for a teaching career or graduate school. But more than just a title to put down on paper, teaching at the CSA offers the chance to develop real-world skills and knowledge about arts education.

For Will Pool, a music business major and guitar instructor in his final semester at Indiana State, becoming a CSA instructor has helped to further develop his communication and teaching abilities.

"When you're teaching, you're overcoming barriers of ‘How can I communicate this in such a way someone can understand? Or how can I be very effective and sincere in how I come off? And how can I steer someone in the right direction without discouraging them or going way over their heads?'" the Evansville, Ind. native said.

The experience also reveals the internal operations of an arts education organization.

"It's made me understand the business perspective," said Pool, who is also an administrative intern and director of the Terre Haute Guitar Club at the CSA. "There is a need for good and decisive leadership in nonprofits in general. Arts education organizations do need strategic, as well as creative, people."

"These are all things that really prepare them for their future careers," Nyendick said. "At a minimum they have a whole semester of teaching a class or private lesson and that gives them a lot of time to develop intellectually, academically and professionally."

And that development is thanks in part to the demands placed on student instructors. They don't just teach the day's lessons -- they design them, too. Just like a professional instructor, they're responsible for building a curriculum, planning and organizing each week of class and managing the classroom's activity and environment.

"Because our student instructors are responsible for the entirety of their class, they definitely need to know what they're doing, "Nyendick said.

To become an instructor, students must supply a faculty recommendation that testifies to their expertise in their subject and ability to teach.

"They're excellent at what they do," Nyendick said. "Bob is excellent in theatre, Sarah is excellent in art, and Will is excellent in music. Secondly, they are great at dealing with kids and adults. And third, they're passionate about what they do .... It's these kinds of people who have drive and belief in what they do that I think make really outstanding teachers."

As talented and driven as the CSA instructors are, they see similar qualities in their students.

"I want them to tap a potential they may have inside themselves that they don't know they have," Randolph said. "For theater, that could be singing, dancing or acting. I want them to be good kids when they're done, and I want to be one of the reasons why they are who they are."

"I'm proud of my students every day," Pool said. "Every time I get to interact with a student and help them on just the littlest of things, whether it's finger placement on a piece or learning a scale, or even something like learning a whole piece, it's so humbling and rewarding to be able to help them. When they get it, their faces light up and they really enjoy it and they want to come back and learn more."


Photos: -- Instructor Sarah Cole listens to a student during her "Pencils and Paints for Young Artists" class at the Community School of the Arts at Indiana State University. --Students concentrate on their drawings in Sarah Cole's "Pencils and Paints for Young Artists" class at Indiana State University's Community School of the Arts. - Instructor Bob Randolph interacts with his students in his "The Imagination Stage" class at Indiana State University's Community School of the Arts. - Instructor Bob Randolph and his students talk during Randolph's "The Imagination Stage" class at Indiana State University's Community School of the Arts. -- Will Pool teaches a student about proper finger placement during Pool's "Rock Band" class. -- Will Pool observes his students at work in his "Rock Band" class.

Contact: Petra Nyendick, director of the Community School of the Arts, Indiana State University, 812-841-2884 or

Writer: Elise Lima, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773 or