Archive for April 23rd, 2013


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jane Kirton

April 23, 2013

This is the 28th 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.

photoJane Kirton teaches chorus, keyboarding, and introduction to music at Sanford High School where she has been for 12 years. She is the music director for musicals, helps with Sophomore Awareness, and graduation activities.  Outside of school Jane is the music director at the North Parish Congregational Church and a facilitator for The Center For Grieving Children at the Southern site.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The best part of my job is being able to touch the souls’ of all my students! Most of the time, the students take my classes have chosen to take them, therefore, they want to be in the class. This makes for an atmosphere of warmth and comfort which is conducive to learning. We, as arts educators, are able to reach some students whom others can’t, this is our most valuable strength.  I tell my students that we’re going to learn a lot about life as well as music in our class!

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

  1.  Compassion – we must have and show compassion to all our students.
  2. Versatility – being able to teach something a number of ways to reach all types of learners.
  3. Connection/be present – we must make a connection with each student we teach, show them that we care and that they are valued. Adding a bit of humor and telling them my story are two of my strengths.

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

There have been times when I have struggled with assessment especially written assessments. I want to be sure that my assessments are applicable to what I teach especially in chorus class. Being a performance based class, writing shouldn’t be the primary assessment. I have worked hard to create a variety of ways to assess – vocally and writing that is pertinent to what we do.  I am always searching for new ideas and ways to assess.

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

The benefits of becoming involved in the MAAI have been wonderful. From the network of new colleagues to the endless possibilities of creativity – wow! I have found that this initiative has put me in the zone so to speak. I have totally reworked the way I teach my keyboarding class and as a result, word is spreading and more students want to take the class than what I can accommodate! I look forward to continue to enhance my other classes. I am anxious to see what year three holds for us.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud that I went back to school at the age of 40 to get my degree in music education! I am proud when I see students graduate from high school and college with a music degree. I am blessed with wonderful students – not just the ones that go to college. I believe in not only teaching music but I teach about life! Making connections with my students while at SHS is very important to me.  Many of my former students stay in touch and visit our class often. I know I have made a difference in my students’ lives when they continue to come back and visit.

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

Time is always a factor! I could spend hours and hours doing what I do. I believe right now my biggest stumbling block is our school schedule. My numbers are sadly dwindling as students cannot fit music classes into their schedule. I also dream of a performing chorus in the elementary schools which we don’t have. I believe that a love for singing must start early on. Kids need to feel singing in their bones and love it in order to continue on at the upper levels. Our children have so many options in their lives today, it’s hard for them to choose and do it all.

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

Despite low numbers, the sound of my chorus continues to be very good. I know this comes directly from the result of teaching. Time spent on music literacy is invaluable! The connections that I make with my students is very important to me. I work hard to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and acceptance in my classes which makes for a peaceful working environment. Through this we are able to make beautiful (bel canto) singing!  Helping a student in need is very important to me.

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

As one of my college professors told me . . . “Be the one to make a difference in the student’s life who struggles to thrive in other classes and with other teachers.” I have a quote on my bulletin board in my office that I made up several years ago . . . “Remember, you don’t necessarily know what the person next to you went through last night or before school today . . .”  I believe, as an educator, yes you need to know your content and know it well but it is also extremely important that we care for our students!

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

I would first pay off my children’s college debt for them. Pay off our mortgage. Put money away for my grandchildren’s college education. Buy some recording equipment for my class at school and at church.

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

No regrets! I made that decision when I turned 40 and went back to school!!! Oh don’t get me wrong, there are some things I WISH I could do such as return to school and perhaps become a counselor but frankly, I’m happy doing what I am doing! I love touching the lives of my students!  Remember, lasting friends are made through music!

Thank you for telling your story Jane!

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