Susan Painter is from Decatur, Georgia, near Atlanta, and she always knew she wanted to an artist.
“I was always interested in art. I took lessons as a young girl and in high school, drawing and painting,” she says.
Susan met her husband, Rick, in college. He's a landscape architect, and the couple moved around the country, following his career, eventually landing in Jacksonville.
Although she earned a teaching certificate in college, she hadn’t used it. She came to schools in a different way.
“I got involved in the school as a volunteer when both of my children were young. I was the 'painting lady,’" she says. "They had prints of famous paintings that you could bring into the classroom and use to teach the children about the artist and what he or she was doing. Then a job opening came available, and I went to work for the school. I learned that volunteering is a really good way to find a job.”
It was a job, but it wasn’t teaching art.
“I started working at an elementary school where my son was attending. I was the copy lady. I spent all day in the copy room, making copies for the teachers every day," she says.
Susan moved on to be a secretary and, eventually, to the job of bookkeeper and secretary to the principal. All the while, she thought about art.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to teach art," she says. "But those jobs don’t come available very often. Usually, an art teacher stays in their job until they retire.”
And then an art teacher did retire.
“I decided, even at my age, that if I didn’t take that opportunity, I’d probably never get another one. It was a cut in pay, but I got to use what I’d learned in college. And I got to create art, as well as teach it," she says.
Even though she worked with teachers every day for years in her administrative job, Susan learned a lot of things quickly when she was on the other side of the profession.
“Teachers are on the front lines. You have to be three steps ahead of the students and on your game the minute you walk into the classroom," she says.
Susan will retire in a few years and is thinking about what she’ll do after giving up the job she waited so long to start.
“Because I’ve got my hand in it, I want to continue to draw and paint, just for my own enjoyment," she says. "I have no intention of marketing it.”
Susan Painter also has learned that studying art has benefits that extend into every aspect of life.
“I think you develop an appreciation for really good design. You know what the artist did to make something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and understand how difficult that is to achieve," she says.