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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Sarah Williams

March 12, 2013

This is the 22nd in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The  series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

SarahWilliamsSarah Williams has been teaching General Music, grades 5-8 Band and Chorus at Glenburn School for 9 years. there are 102 students in band and chorus and 141 students in grades 2-4 who meet once a week for 45 minutes. the 5th grade band students have individual lessons for 3o minutes once a week and a full rehearsal once a week for 45 minutes. Grades 6-8 band is combined, each grade 6 student has group lessons for 30 minutes once a week and full band with grades 7-8 twice a week for 45 minutes. Grade 5 band students have individual lessons for 30 min once a week and then a full rehearsal once a week for 45 minutes. Grades 7-8 have combined individual group lessons together for 30 minutes and then full band with grade 6 twice a week for 45 minutes.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

The variety of materials and being able to work with a large amount of students.  It’s motivating to see the grade span of where the kids start when I first have them to their last year with me and see their growth and progression.  I also enjoy that you get to actually “know” them as people, not just see them for a year.  You get to see them grow from young children to young adults.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Content Knowledge
  2. Love and Enthusiasm for what you do
  3. Confident voice to promote your program

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment has always been an on going focus for me. I am always looking for new, more informative ways to assess my students. I want to find out the most information about what their strengths and weaknesses are using the most efficient assessment tool possible. I think assessment is extremely important because you could teach a lesson that you think all the students understand, they all appear to be participating and engaged in the lesson. When you do the assessment to find out what the individual student may or may not know it can be a very eye opening experience. Especially when you realize that you completely missed the mark.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

I’ve gained a better understanding of the initiative, it’s goals and focus. I’ve become more knowledgeable about standard based assessment. I’ve also made some connections with other educators that I may not have normally met through this program and also have people I can now bounce ideas off of when I need help.

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I hear that one of my former students has continued on either in High School or even College.  It’s also a great feeling of accomplishment when you speak with a former student or colleague and find out how prepared for the next level of playing the student is, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and know you’re doing something well.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Time. I always wish I could have just five more minutes, and then I would probably still want five more minutes. I feel there is never enough time to get everything you want your students to know or experience about music out to them.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Nine years ago I was asked by my first principal to continue the Chorus that the previous teacher had started. Some may say the odds of success were stacked against me but through patience, time, and sometimes luck, the program has grown from 12 kids to 54. This program is a before school activity that parents have to drop their students off for we do not have an early bus. I continue to try to put this into our regular school day to reach more students but haven’t succeeded yet, partially because of the above issue, time. But there is nothing that makes me more proud of this then standing in front of the students before their concert or even rehearsals and seeing the numbers, it makes me smile.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers? 

Always be a voice for your beliefs in your program and put your students first.  If what you are doing is student centered and will only enhance their learning, then you will always reap the benefits.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

What would I do with $500,000?  Purchase more school instruments so that those students who can’t afford to participate but want to, don’t have to worry about not being able to afford an instrument. I would also save some money for scholarships to help send students to music camps in the summer time. If any money was left over, I would put it into creating a more music friendly room for my students rehearsals and general music since I currently have to teach in a portable.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

No regrets, every choice is an experience whether good or bad, right or wrong.  I will look back and smile!

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