Corbett Kesler’s ’00 career took a few turns before leading to his true passions—art and teaching. He’s now thriving as a full-time special education teacher for students with severe needs AND a full-time artist, specializing in bead work that’s inspired by animals and different cultures and sums between 12,000 to 65,000 beads placed by hand.
How did you get started in a career in your current sector / industry?
I started becoming an artist the way most do, by replicating the work of others. Initially this was not out of a pursuit of becoming the best artist I could be, it was because I wanted my childhood bedroom to look cool. I couldn’t afford to buy artwork at the time, so it was a necessity to sharpen my artistic skills. Years later, it was a small challenge from a friend that would lead me down the path of becoming the artist I am today. My friend innocuously mentioned a beaded skull she had seen in a shop. We talked about it for a few minutes before she threw down the gauntlet to me. “Figure it out, I bet you can’t.” She didn’t insult me. She didn’t question any personal philosophy I hold dear. She simply challenged me to replicate a beaded skull. As a man forged from the dust of Texas, and from a lineage of hardheaded men I set off to make that skull. That was four years ago. Over fifty pieces and countless hours later, I’m on a path of life I never envisioned. I have no formal training. I’ve learned through trial and error. I’ve learned through persistence and passion for the artworks that I’m creating. My primary job is as a High School Special Education teacher. I specialize in teaching students with severe needs. I adapt some of my art projects and passions within my classroom. On occasion, I have my students assist with different portions of art pieces.
Briefly walk us through your career journey to this point.
After Graduating McMurry in 2000 I went to work for my uncle working in Dallas selling truck accessories and other items. I made it back to the Texas Panhandle and landed in the insurance field, and worked within the insurance field for about 10 years. After moving to Denver, CO I soon realized that insurance was not where I needed to be. I found that teaching students with special needs is what felt right. I have been teaching for 12 years and producing art for 4 years now.
What do you most enjoy about your sector / industry / job?
The best thing about my day of teaching is the fact that I am working with students that need help navigating life. Students with special needs have a unique outlook on life and they enjoy learning skills for daily living. I feel that my job really has an impact on helping these students and families. My beaded art work is based around immortalizing a life that was lost, by honoring its existence in a new form. My pieces are a celebration of the animals and cultures that give me inspiration. Each piece is unique and created based on factors of how, where, and when it lived its life. I find beauty in the symmetry of each work, commemorating each life by making it into an exalted and new form. My art pieces have anywhere from 12,000 to 65,000 beads placed by hand, and some of my larger pieces have 120 hours of work in them.
How is your current career the same, or different, than what you thought it would be when you began college?
My current career is completely different than what I thought I would be doing after college. I feel like a person goes through many stages of life and a person can change many times throughout one’s lifetime. To tell you the truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started college and was lucky enough to have a great job offer upon graduation. I have been lucky by experiencing so many different career opportunities and I think young people should experience some of the same things I went through to be able to find the right fit for themselves.
What words of advice do you have for McMurry students or fellow alumni interested in a career in your sector or industry?
My advice would be to look at any job opportunity wisely. If you find yourself questioning your career choice, stop and examine what is most important to your life goals. Those “bad” or “questionable” job choices build character and make for an overall good life experience. Trust me, I can look back and see the positive aspects of every job that I have had and those experiences have helped shape a great life so far.