Pennsylvania Art Teacher Reflects on 40-Year Career

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

The State College Area School District in Pennsylvania is saying goodbye to longtime art teacher Robert Placky who is retiring after a 40-year career with the school district.

Placky has kept mementos of his 40 year career created by the students he has had over the decades. As he packs up his belongings and looks through pictures he remembers the students he taught dating back to 1975.

As he reflects back on his time in the schools art room he muses, “It’s a sanctuary, a haven where people come to escape the world.” Placky estimates that about 8,000 students passed through his classroom during his tenure where he says he helped feed their curiosity about the world.

Sadly, the classroom where Placky gave so much of his life will be demolished and a new building will be constructed in its place. He admits he will be compelled to watch the wrecking ball and knows in his heart that he will cry when it happens.

Though he will feel a loss when the classroom is destroyed, he will instead try to concentrate on his successes. He reminisces about students who have gone on to enjoy a career in the arts including one who works for Pixar and another who is a character designer for the Avatar franchise. These are just two of the many examples of students whose lives he impacted in a small art classroom in Pennsylvania.

He considers himself a Sherpa, the student’s guide to the art world. His job was to provide them with the equipment they needed to climb the “metaphorical mountain.”

Ironically, his art education came after checking the wrong box on a college application. Placky was originally set to go to architecture school, but fate had another path in mind for him.

Now forty years later, he is saying goodbye to a career filled with love. “It’s like I’m saying goodbye to my home,” he concludes.