Tips on Running an After-School Program: AME 122



Have you ever wanted to start an after school program? Today’s guest, Pamela Saunders from Washington, D.C. was motivated to teach art when her children entered elementary school. Like many school districts, art was not offered, so Pamela took it upon herself to begin an after-school art program.

Pamela shares how she began her after-school art classes, what challenges she experienced and what motivates her to keep her vision alive.

Take a peak inside her art room and see what two projects were a home-run for her K-4th grade students.

As with all interviews with members of The Sparklers Club, Pamela turns the table and asks Patty a question.

Pamela asks, What are some creative ways that art teachers like me, who are self-employed, can creatively market their business in their communities? To hear Patty’s response, listen to AME 122 by clicking the play button below.

Get to know and learn more about our February 2019 Sparkler Spotlight, Pamela Saunders

1. What was your path/journey to becoming an art teacher.

I took a circuitous route! During collage I briefly worked with a non-profit art group developing a PR campaign as part of my course work in a grad level PR class. I ended up getting a summer job there teaching art to preschoolers and loved it. Years later, after becoming a decorative muralist and faux painter, I found my way back to teaching art at the preschool level. When my children reached elementary age, I started an art program at their school and added more schools after that.

2. What do you feel is your best attribute or strength as an art teacher?

I am passionate about art and want my love of art to be contagious. When a parent told me that their child, who had never shown an interest in art prior to my class, was now looking up artists, asking great questions and talking about art movements with his parents at the dinner table, I was elated. The mom told me that she looked at her husband and said, “who is this kid?!”

3. What do you do well in the art room and how does this benefit your students?

I am respectful of individual expression. In their art curriculum, they are expected to do things in a specific way. In my art club, I allow them to make artistic choices withing a framework. That is, if the assignment is to make a cat and the child asks if the cat can have big ears, I’ll tell them, “you are the artist, so you get to decide.” They are usually excited by the freedom to be expressive and that makes the artwork that they create more meaningful and interesting to look at!

4. Why do you feel teaching art to kids is important?

– Children need space and time to get lost in their imagination

– Art enables children to learn not just hand-eye coordination, the elements of art, how to use materials, but more importantly how to collaborate with others, how to problem solve, how to focus, how to observe something from different points of view, persistence, working through frustration, time limits… the list goes on.

 5. Why did you join the Sparklers Club and how has the joining the group helped you?

I joined because I needed some fresh ideas. It was taking me hours each week to develop lessons for my classes. Since I had so many repeat students session after session, I always tried (and succeeded) to never do the same lesson twice. It was exhausting but when I found DSS, I felt like I had all these incredible lessons at my fingertips. What I didn’t realize was that by joining the Sparklers (and I am a founding member), was that along with it came the unexpected human resource – some refer to it as a tribe or sisterhood, a group of professional women (and men?) who understand the life of an art teacher like nobody else does and they are for you when you have a question, a problem, or a success. Being a Sparkler is priceless.


– How Pamela’s creative background and love of art eventually led to her art career

– How Pamela structures her after-school art program

– What were the benefits and challenges of running it

– Pamela’s personal philosophy on teaching art

– What advise she would give to teachers looking to set up their own after-school program

– How Patty feels she can market her services to her community with a simple social media strategy




Blog posts mentioned in this podcast:

George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog Art Lesson

Starry Night Multi-Media Art Lesson

You can visit Patty through Deep Space Sparkle on Facebook and Instagram

Patty Palmer At Home Instagram


What do you think?

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  • Jenni

    Hi Pamela! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective today! As a homeschooling mom, I am a part of a Facebook group for local homeschoolers and one that has lots of moms of young children, and there are regularly people who are looking for references for art teachers. When I heard your question about expanding your business at the end of the podcast, I wondered if it would help to find these homeschool groups on Facebook and ask the administrators if you can advertise your services there. I know that there is one art teacher here who regularly posts the workshops and classes that he hosts. Also, many homeschool co-ops like to offer art classes. I would search for those on Facebook as well and see if there is an interest in art classes. Facebook ads also targeted at Washington D.C. homeschoolers could help.

  • Maureen Cesari

    Thank you for this podcast – It was an interesting listen. It is fun to find out how and why other teachers began their after school programs. I teach K-2 art during the school day and run two after school programs at two different schools. I created a free website on Wix when I started teaching at more than one school for parents to find out about me, my program and what kind of classes I would be teaching. I have since upgrade my website to a paid site in order to give parents more information and give the site a more professional feel. This school year I began taking payment online through Paypal, although there is a small fee for transactions, I still make out better in the long run than having bounced checks or not receiving payment at all. Additionally, having students register online keeps me from having to determine which registration form and payment came into the office first since I have waiting lists for all my classes. Many parents have told me the ease of use and the ability to see what kinds of things their children will be doing has made the program very appealing. Best of luck to you in growing your business!

    • amollica77

      The podcast are amazing and have been so inspiring for me. I have been teaching for over 20 years. I love to teach and see the children grow and learn so much in a year. So much has changed and education has been in a transition for many years. Teach this, teach that, lets try this, how about this program. I love art and found this passion later in life. I want to give children to opportunity to feel, express and be free. Art is a way to have different perspectives, to feel free and feel, a moment to breathe and take it all it. This is the year I begin teaching art after school, on weekends, and then full time. Bring more art to my classroom. Thank you for all the podcast, the amazing comments are all a blessing.

      • Patty

        Thank you so much for listening Maureen!

  • Rona Wilcox

    Hi Pamela,
    That was a great podcast- I really rnjoyed hearing about your journey into art. I love your enthusiasm and passion. Thanks for that great tip for chalk pastels- just what I was asking the Sparklers about. I aldo teach at school and teach an after school and holiday programme do was interested to hear Pattys answer to your question about marketing. Your photos are inspiring too- love thr art work.

  • Gaby Ader

    I enjoyed listening to this podcast. I have a very similar business to Pamela’s except I am a one person mobile ceramics studio. I teach at a few different schools. I have had the most success with one particular homeschool where I teach several classes in the early day leaving after school slots open for schools on the regular school day schedule. Each school has their own way they arrange payment. Some schools require me to pay a percentage and have parents sign up directly with them. This works out well because I don’t need to do much. The home school where I teach just pays me a certain amount for every class plus each parent pays a materials fee. I also have a website where parents can register and pay for the schools that are not involved in the payment at all. This is great except you do get charged 3% or so for every registration and that can really add up. I always do promotion at the beginning of the school year to connect with continuing and new students. I also leave registration flyers at all of the schools. At back to school night I set up a table with promotional materials, a bunch of samples and clay stations for kids. This is how new families find out about my program every year. At some schools I do Open House at the end of the year and display the students art work. This always attracts interest for the following school year. With this model you can only do so much unless you hire other teachers so you can expand the amount of classes you can offer. I still do everything myself and that is they way I like it for now. My dream is to open a kids clay studio and to continue with the mobile classes so I can bring revenue in from both. I could go on and on but I just wanted to share a bit about how I run my mobile business.

  • Aimee

    A couple of suggestions: do talks for homeschool groups and that is an opportunity for them to meet you.

    Check into homeschool conferences and see if you can connect that way.

    NC has an “Artists in the Schools program through the state arts council. These are teaching stints that pay a stipen. So maybe check your local art groups.

    This was so great and I feel inspired to try some afterschool program.

  • Monica

    Hi Pamela, Thanks for sharing your stories and experience. I’m in Canada and our PTA will do in house field trips. We have a list of ‘Artist in Residence’. The teachers can spend their field trip allowance on artists of all kinds that come to the class and lead a project. That’s what I’m hoping to start in September when my youngest is in school full time. Also I follow Christy Wright who runs the Business Boutique. She’s not an artist but she champions women in small business. Her podcast/ book/ membership on top of this one would be a powerful combo for you. Well done in finding your community here. I’m excited to see how far you’ll go.

  • Andrea Diagonale

    Hello Pamela (and Patty!)
    It’s summer vacation for this K-5 art teacher so I’m catching up on all my missed podcasts. I guess I missed this particular podcast because when it aired, I had just opened my own after school business of offering art classes! It was a new and busy time. I was still teaching k-5 art classes once a week, prepping for the school art show, managing my new website, handling registrations, and teaching those new classes. It’s been a wonderful journey and I’m so happy I did it. The business is still going strong over the summer in which I’m teaching several camps and offering select Saturday art classes.

    What helped me a lot was a google site I had created. I was able to get the google domain of paintandpages.com. Google makes a very professional looking site that is easy to build. I have calendars and registrations all linked to the site. I haven’t fully explored online payments so for now, I collect payment via Venmo or Zelle. You’re welcome to explore my site and I’d be happy to help you if you have any questions.
    As for advertising, my school does link my site to their communications which helps a lot. I have also distributed flyers and reached out to homeschool groups via Facebook. NextDoor app is also a good way to advertise to the local community.

    Good luck with everything! Isn’t it just the best job ever!!!
    Andrea Diagonale

    • Patty

      This all sounds amazing! So happy you found your groove and that its working so well. Bravo! BYW, who is Pamela?

  • Mary K McCardel

    Thanks Patty and Pamela for this wonderful podcast. I have recently retired from teaching PK to 4th grade art in a public school. I went the around about way as well. I was an art major in college and took of year of a master’s course in art education. Then life happened and I became a director of an arts council and then I ran a daycare center, I workrf with my college profession as an assistant in his pottery business, did medical billing, worked in an artisan center, sold insurance, managed a book store, and finally spent the last 13 years teaching art in a public school. Since my retirement I find that I am missing the art teaching and will begin teaching art at our local art center one day a week after school. I’m looking forward to smaller classes and having a classroom. (I taught art on a cart). I was thinking of ways to promote the classes. The art center will put it on their website, but I never thought of having a face book page. I can start this and get the word out to my former students. Thanks again for all the wonderful creative projects and the support you give to art teachers. Mary

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