More People Seeking Self-Enrichment Teachers The Buzz


Self-enrichment teachers teach subjects that people learn for self-improvement or fun. A few examples are drama, music, photography, cooking and physical fitness.

Self-enrichment teachers teach people of all ages. Their student could be a six-year-old learning to play the piano or a senior citizen learning about wine tasting.

Often, self-enrichment teachers are self-employed or employed just part time. This means their income often comes from a variety of sources.

"We teach all over the place," says Steve Neumann. He's an enrichment teacher in California who focuses on arts education. "We basically travel with a bag of tricks. Today alone I'm going to be at three different schools. It's nice, the flexibility and stuff, but there's a little bit of uncertainty to it as well."

To get students, enrichment teachers need to network and build a good reputation. A lot of their work comes from word of mouth. This is especially true for those who are self-employed, such as Neumann, an actor and director with a degree in theater. He runs a theater company for youth and also teaches after-school enrichment classes in theater.

"One thing I enjoy the most is the ability to work with kids at all different levels and all different ages," says Neumann. "I mean, I work with preschool kids all the way through seniors in high school, in different capacities. So you get wide variety, which is very nice."

Neumann says he especially enjoys seeing kids achieve something for the first time, such as memorizing their lines or performing a song. "Just watching it click and listening to their feedback and watching their discoveries is exceptionally rewarding," he says.

Alana Loewe Weiss is an enrichment teacher and private voice coach. She has taught musical theater enrichment classes at elementary schools and currently teaches music at a high school.

"My bread and butter is that I'm a private voice teacher, but I work with two high school a cappella groups and I often work with mainstage musicals," says Weiss.

"I think being involved in performing arts is so valuable," says Weiss, who is also a professional singer. "I gained so much confidence from being on stage."

Weiss says enrichment courses such as those in singing and theater give students many lasting benefits.

"I think any time a student sees themselves improve in something, especially something that they love, something that they're passionate about, their confidence level goes through the roof," says Weiss. "I think that's something that's very valuable."

Students also gain confidence from physical education, notes Janean Greer. She's an enrichment teacher at a private school in Texas. She is employed full time at the school as a teacher of physical education and assistant to the athletic director.

The confidence gained from enrichment subjects can be especially valuable for those who don't do well at other subjects.

"[If they] don't do well in the classroom... they can find success in this instead of history or math," says Greer.

"And for a lot of them it's a release... they can get their energy out and refresh their mind. It just kind of breaks up the day for them. Getting physically fit helps their mind be more fit and to receive more information in the afternoon."

It's not just fun for the students. Greer very much enjoys what she does.

"I love it," says Greer. "It's just fun to get out there and play with the kids. I love when it clicks for them and they see that success and really start enjoying it.

"One of our goals is to get them exercising, but they don't know they're exercising," Greer says.

"They're more thinking about what the objective is (of a particular game or activity). And you get to have a different relationship than if you're a classroom teacher. It's more relaxed, and you can joke around with them. I enjoy building those relationships with the students."

Weiss says that being a self-employed enrichment teacher is a good fit for many creative types such as her.

"People who are creative, who would be inclined to do something like what I do, don't necessarily want to work at a nine-to-five job," says Weiss.

"This career allows me to do something different each day. Every week for me is unique because, throughout it, I teach 30 private students with differing personalities, ages and levels of talent and also spend time at a high school working with two 15-member singing groups, which changes the workday dynamic completely."

It's that variety and the opportunity to teach a subject they love that keeps enrichment teachers happy.

"Everything my job consists of and every source of income I have allows me to stretch myself creatively every day," says Weiss. "It is pretty common in this field for people to have different [jobs and clients] -- a little bit here, a little bit there.

"After time, if you're lucky enough to have success in this field, you can start to hone in on where you enjoy your work the most," Weiss adds.

The training and education for enrichment teachers varies widely. Many just have training in the particular subject they're teaching, especially if they're self-employed. Those working full time in schools need to have the same qualifications as other teachers. This typically requires four to five years of university.

"I think that an understanding of whatever the craft is that is being taught is first and foremost," says Weiss.

"One of the most valuable traits of being a good singing teacher is to be able to accurately convey the technique. If I wasn't a singer myself and didn't understand the voice as well as I do, or if I wasn't articulate while explaining the concepts, it would be very difficult to have that same student retention."

Neumann says relationship building is a key part of succeeding as an enrichment teacher.

"One of the main ways is once you get into a school, once you're welcomed in, is relating to those kids on their level and allowing their parents and the school faculty to see the relationship that you're building with those kids," says Neumann. "They begin to see how valuable you are to them -- and that's building them as a recommendation for when you want to go somewhere else."

Ed Wasiak is a professor of music education who trains aspiring music teachers.

"I believe that music education is a key part of any well-rounded person's education," says Wasiak. "I say that because music is one of the most powerful and unique ways that human beings, universally across time, have always used to communicate all aspects of what it means to be human."

Wasiak says music is a difficult subject to teach well. "You can't just read a book or get up to speed by attending a few concerts or whatever. Most of us have spent a lifetime preparing to do what we do... I started piano lessons when I was six, and all of that provides the background. So if you aren't a teacher with quite a bit of musical background, it's really hard to teach it with any sort of degree of confidence or competence."

Wasiak says enrichment subjects such as music, unfortunately, often don't get the emphasis they deserve.

"It's a key element to education and unfortunately, especially in North America, sometimes it's viewed more on the periphery of education," says Wasiak. "Sometimes it's viewed as 'nice if we've got time and money, but it's not absolutely necessary,' and so the arts are always at risk."

"Arts education itself is a very growing profession," says Neumann. "The profession itself is gaining validity. There are now universities that are offering master's degrees in arts education, so the validity and the value of this... is definitely on the rise."

Building your knowledge and skill in whatever subject you hope to teach is essential. But there's something else you can do to prepare for this career.

"One of the great things to do right in high school, or right out of high school, is find an arts summer camp -- finding an arts summer camp that you can go and work at and possibly be an assistant to someone else who maybe has a strong program that's built," says Neumann.

"Learn the ropes a little bit, learn and see if it's something that you actually like to do. Half of arts education is just being able to work with kids. The other half is the growing of yourself as an artist."

Links

National Enrichment Teachers Association
Learn about their certification program

Interview Questions and Tips
Preview these interview questions and helpful suggestionss

Drama Resource
Offers games and other helpful resources for drama teachers