by Shekela Wanyama, music teacher and choir director
As teachers, my colleagues and I are constantly working to create relevant learning experiences for our students. Professional development plays an important role in helping teachers master new content and teaching methods, and incorporate those best practices into our classrooms. In July of 2015, I was fortunate to participate in a Lakeside-funded professional development opportunity that has been integral to recent developments in our choir program.
The opportunity was a class entitled "Teaching Music to Young Singers," taught by Dr. Angela Broeker, a nationally-recognized conductor and music educator at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The class was a game-changer for my preparation process as an educator. I returned to school with new teaching methods and more efficient rehearsal strategies which led to our students learning material more deeply and quickly.
Last May, at the suggestion of Elaine Christensen, we welcomed Dr. Broeker to Lakeside for a dynamic day of learning. Dr. Broeker and I discussed curriculum development and repertoire for developing voices. Dr. Broeker worked with our sixth and seventh grade students in a workshop that students described as "fun," "engaging," "helpful," and "memorable."
Dr. Broeker also gave me a conducting lesson during a choir rehearsal with students. "It was so weird and interesting to see your teacher being taught!" said one student, reflecting on the experience. Another said she didn't realize that "conducting can make a HUGE difference in the sound a choir makes." Student learning wasn't just linked to music in this workshop. Watching Dr. Broeker work, one student commented "[This experience] makes me want to choose a profession in which I love my job." It was an exceptional day of growth for all of us. You can see some video from the day on the music page of our website.
High-quality professional development experiences such as these have a direct impact on student learning. Robust support for professional development is not just a "bonus" in a school, rather it indicates the depth of the school's commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. I feel fortunate to work in a school that values and supports continuous growth for learners of all ages!