Artsy Chic Mom on the Street Whitney Panetta inspires those around her through her unique fusion of art and education. Whether she's enjoying a family adventure or equipping teachers with the art resources they need, she's having fun in a creative way.
Whitney Panetta is a wife and mother of two living in Atlanta, Georgia. As a professional high school art educator for the past twelve years, she never lost her passion for creating outside of the classroom. This passion led her to leave the classroom to pursue her educational resource business full time. Thousands of educators have downloaded her art resources, which you can find at TeachersPayTeachers.com and her website.
Whitney also continues her artistic pursuits, where she incorporates techniques from different mediums into her artwork. You can often find her artwork at local markets and festivals throughout the greater Atlanta area.
What made you want to be an art teacher and how many years did you teach?
I was raised by an art teacher who taught for over 35 years; it was in my blood! My mom always did fun projects with us and I can't remember a time when I wasn't captivated by art. I didn't originally plan to pursue art education, but ended up switching majors in college, eventually getting my bachelor's and masters in art education. I taught for 12 years in both public and private settings and truly loved my job.
What were some of your favorite and least favorite parts of teaching art?
My least favorite parts of teaching are the parts that took away from teaching art. While teaching in public school my budget was practically nothing so I spent a lot of time and effort fundraising so I could teach art. A lot of my time was also taken up with being trained on administering and proctoring standardized tests. I am a terrible disciplinarian so classroom management has always been a struggle, and when students misbehave it takes focus away from artmaking. I learned over time that consistency is key and once students understand your boundaries it gets easier, but that took time to learn. My favorite part of teaching is getting to know my students. The special thing about teaching art is how personal it is. we really get to dive into student aesthetics and interests. I learn so much just by seeing what they create.
What grades did you teach when you were a teacher?
I have experience in K-12 but taught 9-12 during my 12 years teaching professionally. I love working with "the big kids." I can have interesting conversations with them, they can get out their own supplies, it really is an amazing age to work with.
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for art teachers or future art teachers?
Play to your strengths. Incorporate the medium you love into your class because your students will see that passion and be more engaged because of it. Ignore everyone who says don't smile for the first month of school. Show your students you care from day one. Show them love, respect, and also firm boundaries. Set your rules, stick with them, don't let students toe the line or they will push boundaries all year.
What is your artistic style and how has it evolved over the years?
Clean, modern, eclectic, and whimsical come to mind when I think about my recent art pieces. My style is difficult to define because I like to work in a range of media. Lately, I have been playing with abstract watercolors, a balance of clean white space and bright colors. I have always loved mixed media, I like to experiment with bringing different materials together. I have worked with encaustic wax for years because it combines my love of collage and carving. My style has evolved a great deal over the years and is often informed by my teaching. I have always liked mixed media best, but have moved from working with oil and fabric to a focus on pottery to encaustic to watercolor and resin over the last 15 years. I'm sure it will continue to evolve and change in years to come.
What made you want to switch from teaching to your own business and art?
I have been growing my side business, creating resources for teachers, for around 8 years. A few years ago, my side business reached an income level that allowed me to stop teaching full-time if I wanted to. But I didn't feel the desire to step back from the classroom. All that changed after a year and a half of pandemic teaching. Teaching virtually, in hybrid, and face to face with a horrific virus raging brought an exhaustion level I had never experienced. I no longer had the bandwidth to continue my business after school, so I had to choose. In the end, I decided to bet on myself and the business I built from the ground up.
Your business and blog mainly focus on advice, projects, printables, worksheets, and more to art teachers. When did you get started making these sorts of elements, and why?
I began creating these resources in 2013, three years after I began teaching because I realized how desperately I needed them when I first started teaching. When you are a math or history teacher, you are handed a textbook, a curriculum, and told what to teach. You are still responsible for presenting the information, creating assignments, tests, and similar, but you have a base to work from. Art teachers are left to their own devices. The only thing driving our courses is a class title and very broad state and national art standards.
In my first year teaching, I was told I was teaching Introduction to Art, Sculpture, Drawing, and Painting. That was all the information I got. I didn't have a textbook, timeline, list of projects, or curriculum. I had to create everything from the ground up, and I was drowning my first year. Once I had a few years and a ton of resources built up, I realized the potential buyer market. At that point, the website Teachers Pay Teachers had been around for a while but was becoming increasingly popular. I decided to jump in and give my own shop a try. The rest is history.
What are some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of owning your own business and blog?
The most challenging part of running my blog is the never-ending issues with website updates, bugs, HTML code, and similar that I know nothing about and have attempted to self-teach. After the umpteenth time my website went down, I finally handed it off to a company to keep everything up to speed and my security tight to prevent bugs and unintentional shutdowns. Running my own business is similar. I am a trained art educator, not a graphic designer, marketer, videographer, or accountant. Learning about these various aspects is incredibly time-consuming, and they often don't have an immediate payoff.
The most rewarding part is seeing the success in it and knowing it is 100% me. Knowing it wasn't an overnight success is also rewarding because I stuck with it for years before seeing a real payoff. For years I put in time and effort, and I am now reaping the benefits of that. It feels really good to know I can stand on my own two feet because of my work. I also love hearing from teachers who have purchased my resources and how much time it has saved them or how well their students responded.
How do you see your blog/business growing in the future? What is your main goal and hope for it?
I have a to-do list that is about two years long. So I plan to add many more resources to my Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) and blog shop. There is a ton of work I want to do on my blog and my blog shop. I hope to grow my personal website as much as my TPT shop has grown. Another place where I'd like to devote more of my time is towards art-making and to offer my artwork for sale on my website. Outside of my current projects, I have a dream to publish a children's book. I hope I can scratch that one off my bucket list.
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for small business owners?
Put in three years minimum if you have a passion you want to pursue. I didn't see a real turnaround from my business for three years. But once I did, it was like a snowball going downhill. Once you get the momentum, you are on your way!
Where can people follow you on social media and find your website/blog?
Which three words best describe your style? Eclectic, modern, artsy-chic
What are your favorite places to shop? Anthropologie, West Elm, antique stores
Who’s your favorite style icon? I consider style to encapsulate your entirety, including what you wear, your home decor, the artwork you buy, what you surround yourself with. Because of that, my style icons are in fashion, design and are artists. I would have to say some combination of artists, Lisa Congdon and Jackie-O. Lisa has amazing, empowering, bright, happy, modern designs. Jackie-O was able to combine classic and on-trend styles in a way that never seems to go out of style.
What’s your best style advice? Screw everyone else and what is considered on-trend or popular. Dress, decorate, and do what you love, and surround yourself with what makes you happy.
What article of clothing/accessory would you not want to live without? I have a love affair with leggings and earrings. My leggings are my at-home staple, and any style earring is my leave-the-house staple.
Which trend would you want to see make a comeback? I would love to bust out the flared-leg jeans that I dallied in fifth grade. Those pants gave me the confidence of a 13-year-old as a 10-year-old.
What fashion/style did you love at the time but now cringe when you see old photos? Low rise jeans and peasant tops... I couldn't get enough of them in the early 2000s.
What’s your best style secret? As someone who wears the most basic makeup and doesn't do much to style my hair, dry shampoo and a side braid have become my favorite hack for getting ready quickly and looking relatively put together.
Stilettos or flats? 100% flats
What’s your favorite way to spend time with your family?
Going on adventures together. Picking a new playground or new trail to hike is always fun. I like to participate in an art group in Atlanta called Free Art Friday. On Fridays, artists drop artwork around the city, sharing hints of the location on Instagram using the hashtag #fafatl. People find them and take them home. My son loves hunting for artwork, so we will often hop in the car, go somewhere new in pursuit of a potential art find, and drop one of my ATL chickens while we are out!
What’s been your best family vacation?
We go to the beach every year with my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother. It's so fun getting everyone together, watching the cousins playing on the beach.
Best parenting advice:
Tell your kids how much you love them often. Give them so many hugs and kisses. Make them feel safe with you.
Parenting true confession: Sometimes, I don't like my kids. I love them more than anything, but they can be whiney, needy, mean, and exhausting. I don't feel like the best mom every day. Some days we all cry. But overall, motherhood is incredibly special, and I would do it exactly the same way every time.
What’s your go-to family dinner? Pizza night is a family favorite. Both my husband and I worked at a pizza restaurant in college. I was a server; he was a cook. The kids love watching him throw out the pizza dough; we each top our own, share our creations.
What’s your favorite family restaurant? With a three and five-year-old (and in a year and a half pandemic), we rarely see the inside of a restaurant as a family. The Chick-fil-A drive-through does see us practically on a weekly basis.
What’s your favorite show to binge-watch? "The Office" is my all-time favorite, and Schitt's Creek is my newest go-to. You can find both of those on loop often at my house.
If you could pick anyone to star as you in a movie based on your life, who would it be? I would pick Jennifer Lawernce because she seems so real and down to Earth.
What’s your favorite beach read? I am an avid reader and rarely read a book more than once. Two that I have revisited (other than the Harry Potter series) are A Shadow of the Wind and The Book Thief.
What song would you dance to when nobody’s watching? I would have to take it back to high school and anything on the Jimmy Eat World Bleed American album. My relationship with music was most special while an angsty teen.
If you could go shopping with anyone from history, living or deceased, who would it be? I would go with Frieda Kahlo so we could get amazing jewelry, headpieces, and bright clothing.
What’s at the top of your travel bucket list? This is so hard. My husband and I love traveling when we have the chance. We have already been to Costa Rica, Germany, Amsterdam, Aruba, South Korea, and Japan together. If I had to narrow it down to my top three, I would say Iceland, Spain, and Morocco.
What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day? I end every day with a book. Getting lost in a story and forgetting the stressors of the day help me sleep better.
Whitney Panetta inspires us with her dedication to art education and the art community. She has embraced her unique values through her career, business, blog, and family life. We have so much respect for Whitney taking a leap of faith towards starting her own business while also creating to help other art teachers. She balances family life, career life, and her business in an artsy chic style all her own. Be sure to follow her on Instagram to keep up with all things art and education-relate