MALI Teacher Leader Story: Danielle Sullivan

May 22, 2018

Music Educator

This is the one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Danielle for sharing your story!

Danielle Sullivan teaches music, band and chorus at Etna-Dixmont School. This is her second year at the school and her 8th year teaching. Danielle teaches general music PreK-6th Grade, 4th grade band, 5-6 grade band, 7-8 grade band, 5-6 grade chorus, 7-8 grade chorus and jazz band.  There are about 230 students in the school.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I love seeing students do something they thought was impossible.  At the beginning of the year they believe that there is no way they’ll be able to play/sing this song and by the end of the year (quarter, semester…) they’re able to. It’s wonderful to watch.

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

  1. Administrative and community support are huge. Without support you’re always fighting for what’s right.
  2. Teachers who care
  3. Students who want to learn

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

I love hearing students play and sing alone. The student and I learn so much about their ability when they play alone. Quiet and shy students who either need more support or other opportunities can be lost in a large group if they never sing/play alone.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

I love all the new people I have met and the ideas we share.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of teaching young students to love music. If you can get them young then you have them for life. Being able to teach young children to love music is of the utmost importance to me.

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

All the other duties that aren’t teaching; paperwork, curriculum work, meetings, emails. Doing all these other things makes it harder for me to find time to do research new lesson ideas and work with colleagues.

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

Having older students who consider themselves ‘musicians’.  All of the students that come through the music room door are musicians. When they are young (as is the case at my school) they don’t have a choice; everyone has music class.  But as they get older (middle school and high school) they are no longer required to take music, band and chorus are optional. Having a strong music program with a lot of older students may seem like luck, but if you get students to consider themselves musicians then they will seek out music when it’s no longer obligatory.

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

Don’t be a workaholic! It doesn’t benefit you or the students!

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

For school, I would buy enough instruments so that any student who wanted to play and couldn’t afford it could use a school instrument.

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

Not learning the banjo earlier in life.


  1. Your are a very devoted and dedicated music teacher. You love music nd you love your students.

  2. Thanks for your comment Nancy! I will be sure to let Danielle know that you’ve commented. ~Argy

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