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Another Teacher’s Story: Sue Barre

March 4, 2014

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

This is the first for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative of this  series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read the stories and to learn from others.

SueBarreSue Barre teaches students in Grades 5-12 at Waterville High School and Junior High School and the Albert S. Hall School. She has been the Band Director since 2007 and was the Chorus Director from 2007 – 2007. Sue also teaches Band and HS Music Theory. Sue has been a teacher leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) during the last year. She took a graduate course with the New England Teacher Institute for Teacher Education 2 years ago and she was “hooked”. The rest is history as Sue is committed to the MAAI and the quality of work she is doing.

Her student breakdown includes the following:

  • Grade 5 band – 38 students
  • Grade 6 band – 30 students
  • Grade 7/8 band – 55 students
  • HS Band – 58 students
  • JH and SH Jazz Bands
  • HS Pep Band

Sue was the Director of the Pit Orchestra for fall musical, has worked in public schools for 19 years, teaching instrumental and choral music. She is the owner of Music Together, a preschool music program, for 5 years.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

I most enjoy watching the light bulbs go on for students, those “aha” moments.  The sense of accomplishment when an ensemble performs a piece effectively is priceless.  In my current position I truly enjoy watching the students grow and mature from fifth graders until they are heading off to college.

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

  1. Support of Administration in word and action.
  2. Passion for teaching by the educator.
  3. A “glass is half full” attitude by the educator.

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

Assessments have allowed me to converse with my students in a meaningful manner using a common language. Assessments have also required me to assess my own teaching and learning.  I am constantly learning what works for students and what does not.

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

To be in a room with educators who share a passion for quality education and assessment is invigorating. The Arts Initiative has given me what seems to be bottomless supply of resources for teaching and learning, assessing and reporting and a place where others feel as passionately as I do about arts education!

What are you most proud of in your career?

That I have made a difference in students lives. Facebook has afforded me the opportunity to hear from former students and I am often amazed what affected them the most in the classroom and beyond.

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

At this point in my life it is time, much time is dedicated to motherhood (that I would not trade for the world).  If I could add eight hours a day for prep for school that would be ideal.

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

The improvement of my jazz band programs over the last nine years has been hard work. As a french horn player this is not a genre of music that I studied a lot or performed often. I need to work for every point we earn.

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

Remember that no matter how big they appear, all of the students (even those seniors) are children. They need structure and guidance and to know you care. You need to be their teacher and not their friend. If you are honest and hardworking and show that you care success will find you.

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

10% to charity to repay the help that we have received over the years and then I would take my family to Disney and let them do anything they want!

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

No I do not. I have my faith, I have my beautiful family and I have a job that I find rewarding and truly love.  I tell my students that I have never heard anyone say later in life that they wished they had spent more time at work and I try hard to model the importance of family each and every day.

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