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Elementary Music Teachers Make Each School Unique

 

Elementary music teachers play an important role in shaping a child’s musical interests and talents. Across Crown Point Schools, seven dedicated elementary music teachers each bring their unique passions and teaching styles to their classrooms. While teachers begin with a shared foundational curriculum, their personal interests help grow students’ abilities to understand, appreciate, and develop connections to music. No matter which elementary building you might visit, CPCSC music classrooms are full of laughter, movement, music making, and singing.

 

Krista Woodhull - Lake Street

Miss Woodhull makes her classroom a special place by bridging classical with contemporary. “I love talking about composers of all kinds,” she explained, “but the ones that I talk about the most are those the kids have heard before but maybe don’t know the name of the composer or what they look like.” Woodhull includes composers like John Williams (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park) and Lin Manuel Miranda (Moana, Encanto, and Vivo.) Older students at Lake Street complete a project where they use musical instruments alongside silenced movie clips to create their own soundtracks. “They can totally change the whole emotion of the scene with their music,” said Woodhull. “We talk about how movies would be different if there was no music in the background.” Students often ask about composers for other movies or TV shows they love, which creates a foundation to learn about classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. 

 

Kelly Walton - Timothy Ball

At Timothy Ball Elementary, Mrs. Walton transforms music performances into interactive experiences, blurring the lines between the stage and the audience. Emphasizing that music is meant to be shared, Walton incorporates singing, dancing, and audience participation in what she calls INFORMances. “Our programs are more like everyone having a giant music class together,” she shared. “The grade level giving the performance demonstrates the activity they are learning, then the audience gets to do it with them.” By inviting guests to participate, Walton fosters a sense of community, promoting that music is a common experience, not just a performance. “I think this involves parents in a different way with their child. It gets people out of their comfort zones and makes a fun talking point at family gatherings.”

 

students play recorders in music class

Jennifer Myers - Jerry Ross

At Jerry Ross Elementary, Mrs. Myers loves teaching what might be parents’ least favorite topic: the recorder. She admits it’s an unexpected passion. “Recorders get a bad rap for having a not so pleasing sound,” she said. “But when everyone is playing them gently, with correct finger placements, notes, rhythms, and articulation of each note, the sound can be impressive considering the typical recorder sound most people associate with.” For most of the students, this is their first experience playing a musical instrument with the goal of playing melodies. It’s typically the first time most of them try to become better musicians, tackling harder pieces as they learn and grow. Myers uses a program called Recorder Karate which provides background music to go along with the songs the students learn. By the end of the program, students play their most difficult piece, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” “It’s awesome when the students accomplish that one,” Myers said. 

 

Laurie Heridia - Solon Robinson

Mrs. Heridia works hard to create an inclusive classroom environment at Solon Robinson Elementary. “I’ve been intentional this year about incorporating silent movement at the start of each lesson for all grades,” she said. “Some of our students with sensory struggles are able to have a quiet time to focus on moving their bodies within their own space.” This practice sets the environment for the rest of class. All Solon students also learn a song in honor of Disability Awareness Month every March. Students learn to sing it through both vocalization and sign language. Several grade levels include this song in their Spring performances. Heridia recognizes that music can be a tool for students to shine and find a temporary reprieve from academics in an environment that celebrates differences.
 

Brooke Robinson - Eisenhower

Mrs. Robinson at Eisenhower Elementary teaches an immersive ballet unit tied to the third-grade’s field trip to The Nutcracker. To help students understand the athleticism of the performers and the strict specifications of dance matched to the music, students try some of the moves themselves, including their own 360 jumps. Students begin to understand how acting involves not just the voice, but the body. “We learn about the dedication of the dancers, directors, and technical staff - how their work must be precise, timely, and consistent,” said Robinson. “We listen and identify points in the music where we hear certain effects created by the composer: the Mouse King’s heartbeat, the first snowflakes falling from the clouds, toy soldiers marching into the living room of Clara’s house, and more.” To wrap up the unit, students discuss how the skills and training to coordinate a successful ballet performance carry into many other areas of life.

 

students perform sign language song on stage

Christine Santaguida - MacArthur

At MacArthur Elementary, Mrs. Santaguida creates a moving tribute at the school’s Veterans Day program. Incorporating various music genres, the program honors veterans while also sharing military history. This year’s performance included Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops with a flag ceremony, which was a suggestion from a student. “It’s fun having a front row seat as our students take ownership of their programs,” Santaguida said. At the end of the program, students celebrated visiting veterans by creating an honor tunnel. Veterans were invited to walk through the tunnel as students thanked them and waved red, white, and blue streamers. “My favorite moment was when a 90 year old great-grandfather was wheeled through the honor tunnel,” said Santaguida. “Students were saying things like ‘Thank you for your service!’ and ‘We love you!’”

 

two students smile and dance in music class

Alex Drakulich - Winfield

Mr. Drakulich at Winfield Elementary introduces a unique twist  to traditional music instruction. In the second half of class, he teaches an “artist of the month,” delving into the history and impact of famous musicians like Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, and more. Students watch a video about the artist, and Drakulich teaches basic history about the musician or group. The class discusses how a particular song might reflect something from the artist’s life or time period. When students study Creedence Clearwater Revival, they learn to sing the song Fortunate Son and practice keeping a beat on drums. When they learn about Tina Turner and her song Proud Mary, they have a dance along. Other Winfield teachers bring the artist of the month to their classrooms by playing music during work time or transitions in class. “I like that learning about these artists creates community,” he said. “Not just here in our school, but at home for families. Students can often connect with their parents in a shared music experience.”

 

 

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