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Spotlight on Serena, Music Teacher


1. How did you come to teach for ETM-LA? What is your background in music?

I moved from Connecticut to California in 2016 after being a full-time music teacher for Torrington Public Schools. I had been researching online possible jobs in the area I was moving to and stumbled across ETM-LA. I was reading the mission and digging in to the history of the company, and I realized this was definitely somewhere I could feel fulfilled working. I studied Music Education at the Hartt School of Music under John Feierabend. I also studied classical and world percussion which is what led to my current Masters programs in African Music and Dance and Creative Writing. I am currently working on creating music education resources in world music, specifically from Ghana, while completing my graduate school.
2. What are some of your most memorable teaching moments? 
It’s hard to pick out just a couple moments, but one that jumps to mind right away is when a class of my second graders each showed up to music with a drawing they made of the instrument families. In their general classroom, the teacher had found an article about musical instruments, and I had just happened to be introducing the instrument families to them. The students were so excited that they already knew the information that was found in their reading. They were so proud of their pictures, I hung them up in the classroom! Another moment I remember clearly is having a fifth grader who had trouble staying engaged with class. He would often find ways to try and get the attention directed towards him and I had to really think about how I could work with this student so that class could go on interrupted, but he was still feeling valued and also engaged. One day, when they entered I just went over to him first and said I needed his help in making sure the class was focused that day. I announced his title and responsibility to the class, and sure enough he spent the rest of the time doing his new job. That was a big lesson for me. I’ve learned that creating a positive out of a challenge always solves the problem better.
3. How has music education impacted your students? 

I can’t even count the amount of times students have said to me music is their favorite part of the day or that it’s why they come to school. I’ve seen the impact of music education in many aspects of their lives. When I walk through the campus I hear the students singing hello to me or singing a song we’ve learned. They will come to the classroom and tell me about a connection they made with their math or reading lesson from music. While working with instruments, I have seen students learn responsibility and self-discipline. I really believe a music program changes the whole environment of a school for the better.

4. Why did you choose to pursue teaching music as a career?

I had always wanted to be a teacher because I loved school and looked up to my own teachers. When I got older and started studying percussion very seriously, my teacher asked me if I wanted to be a music teacher and something about that clicked with me. I have such a deep love for music, it sounded perfect to me to have a career where I could share that love and help others develop their own relationship with music. 
5. How did you spend your summer? 
This summer I went to Ghana to continue studying drumming, singing, and dancing. I was able to collect a lot of material to use in my classroom and I also got an incredible performance opportunity. The group I was with performed at a chieftancy festival called the Meƒe Aƒenɔto Festival. We did a dance called Adzogbo, a very intense war piece, in front of the six chiefs, politicians, and president’s representative. After the performance we were immediately invited to come back again next year to perform, but next time they want to give us a longer time slot and have us perform more pieces. Definitely a career highlight for me as a performer!