From wedding photographer to art teacher

We’re glad Mr. Canini made the career switch


Zepa C.

Mr. Canini turned his love of art into a full-time teaching career.

Zepa C

Jacob Canini is Stewart Middle School’s art teacher. Ever wonder how the mind of an art teacher works? Or how they came to be?

Mr. Canini has been teaching for 15 years and plans on teaching for the next 10 years. Keep reading to find out more about Mr. Canini and his art opinions. It seems like he has come a long way from being a photographer in college to a middle school art teacher. 

Mr. Canini has been attached to art since he was younger. He obviously cares a lot about giving his students art projects that really challenge and change perspective. He makes sure that all his assignments contain self-expression and artistic freedom. 

What got you into art? 

In kindergarten when I was 5, I entered a drawing contest. I drew this picture of dinosaurs with a volcano erupting in the background and won 1st place. It was at that moment that my love for art was created. I loved art all through middle and high school and when I was in college, I took a photography class. I really fell in love with photography as an art form and decided that when I transferred to the University of Washington I was going to major in Visual Art with an emphasis in photography. Since then, the focus of everything I have done career wise has been rooted in the arts. 

That’s so cool. Based off what you were exposed to when it came to art, have you sensed a major difference from art back then and now? Either negatively or positively. 

My artistic taste is constantly changing. As I learn about more artists and their unique styles my interests in art also change to reflect the artists that I am into at any given time. When I was a kid, I was really into drawing. Then in college I was really into photography. Now I am really into sculpture. I guess my interests in art are just constantly changing and evolving. 

So based off that answer, what would you say is your favorite sculpture? 

That is a hard question to answer. If I just had to pick one, I would maybe say Alexander Calder’s “Flying Eagle” sculpture at the Seattle sculpture park. If not that then maybe a Jeff Koons balloon animal sculpture. 

I remember those sculptures being brought up during, or even as, school assignments. How was school then compared to now? Have the changes changed the way you choose to teach? 

I just try to create projects for my students that are fun and engaging for them. I want students to be able to use their own interests and likes in the design of their artwork. I like having requirements for projects that just focus on the skills and concepts being taught so that the student will then have the freedom to really create a project reflective of who they are as an individual. 

 I love that! What really encouraged you to teach? Did you just wake up one day and decide to put in an application or was there a deeper meaning behind your teaching? 

While at the University of Washington I majored in Art with an emphasis in photography. After graduating I worked as a wedding photographer for three years. I quickly realized though that I did not like being a wedding photographer. I was talking to my mom one day and mentioned that I was unhappy running my own wedding photography business and she out of the blue mentioned that she thought I would be a good art teacher for middle or high school kids. After thinking about her comment for a couple weeks I decided that being an art teacher could be fun so I thought I would give it a shot. I then enrolled in the teacher preparation program at the University of Puget Sound and got my master’s degree in teaching. I got a job at Giaudrone Middle School right after graduating and have been teaching art in Tacoma at the Middle School level for 15 years now. Thanks mom. 

Well, it is cool that photography is a form of art and then you decided to become an art teacher. Must have been a smoother transition from a photographer to an art teacher, than photographer to any other average job. Do you think you will be teaching in 10 years? If so, anything you haven’t taught that you would like to teach?

I am going to try to make it another 10 years teaching before I retire from education. I don’t know if I will make it that long though as teaching has changed a lot since I became a teacher 15 years ago. As far as anything else I would like to teach, I would really like to teach a sculpture class. I prefer 3-D sculpting over 2-D drawing/painting and would really like to teach a class that focuses on sculpting with a variety of different materials.