Did you always want to teach?
I did. Ever since I was little, I just really enjoyed school myself being a student and learning and I knew that I wanted to teach. What I wanted to teach changed over time, but I always knew that teaching was the job that I wanted to do.
When I went away to college, I wanted to be a high school band director… but once I started learning more about teaching and got to see what the entry level of music was going to be I realized that for me that was just the best fit and I felt that that would really allow me to do what I wanted to do as a teacher, to make the connections that get kids to appreciate and enjoy music for the rest of their lives.
As a young teacher, do you feel your education classes prepared you for teaching?
I feel that in some ways they definitely did when it comes to the paperwork and very logistical things, but I believe that, and I think a lot of teachers would agree, that when it comes to being in the classroom and the classroom management side of things, I think just being out in the field really teaches you that side of things.
Did you get a different perspective when you student taught?
I was unfortunate enough that it was during COVID (pandemic). About a month in (and schools shut down) and ‘Here’s your degree.’
I was lucky enough that my first job that I got after that was a family leave position, and so the teacher I covered for she taught with me for that first month. She basically gave me a crash course in student teaching. She gave me so many wonderful resources and materials. She’s the one who really showed me how to be in the classroom teaching elementary level music.
Did you have a mentor-teacher at Willow when you started?
I had Andy Slivka the art teacher as my (first year) mentor. I still go to Andy with questions even now because there are things that come up. He did also help with teaching. He had to come into my classroom and observe me a few times throughout the year and give me pointers and advice.
Why is teaching such a great profession?
I just feel like there’s very few jobs out there that you get as much back as you give. Teaching, you are giving a lot of yourself. It’s not just standing up in front of the class and expanding children’s knowledge and getting them to learn, but you are making sure they feel loved, and respected and taken care of and supported in what they’re doing and they can come to you for help. So you’re giving a lot of an emotional side of yourself along with the upfront teaching side of it, and I think in return you’re getting that same love back from the students and getting to see them grow into amazing people. That you helped along that journey is really amazing.
Note: Amelia Riedel is a music teacher at Willow School in Homewood.