Once every seven days, the students of Sugar Hill Elementary visit Ms. Tiffany English for music specials. Although she originally intended to be a middle school band director, Ms. English has been teaching elementary-level music, and loving it, for twenty-three years. The environment in her classroom allows students who struggle elsewhere to flourish, and it develops a sense of community in everyone.
Ms. English says, “Most of these kids will not be music majors, but I do want them to be able to sing to their kids, dance at their weddings, and consume music as adults. I guess the most important thing from an extramusical standpoint,” she says, is that “I really want to teach them to work in a community, value other people’s opinions, and put their ideas with other people’s ideas.” Ms. English wants her students to develop a sense of self-confidence and realize that, even if their ideas do not work, they are not bad, just in need of an adjustment. This strategy, paired with her value of community, creates the welcoming, collaborative environment that Ms. English strives to preserve.
Nayali Drapaniotis, Megan King, and Amy Reyes-De Jesus, fourth graders at Sugar Hill, all agree that music class is their favorite because they are able to learn new things and experiment with different instruments. Amy Reyes-De Jesus explains, music “helps me reach goals because, at home, I really like singing, and the things that she teaches me help me reach different pitches. When I grow up, I want to be a singer and inspire other children.”
The music room is a welcoming place to all students. Ms. English reflects on this, saying, “There are some kids that function at very high levels in my room and are either in trouble elsewhere or not successful academically.” She is incredibly grateful for these students’ abilities to succeed and be “stars” in her classroom because she knows they need it. While Ms. English understands the value of all aspects of the elementary school education, she believes some students just “need a bright spot in their day at school,” and “that’s often what art and music classes do.”
In the photo, left to right: Megan King, Ms. Tiffany English, Amy Reyes-De Jesus, and Nayali Drapaniotis