My Story

 I never intended to become a high school teacher.  From an early age, I spent my spare time playing the violin.  There was no strings program in my school district, so my parents drove me an hour each way to weekly lessons and sent me to music festivals in the summers. Following graduation from high school, I earned degrees in violin performance and literature from Eastman School of Music and then spent ten years as a professional violinist and college teacher.  When, at the age of 33, Fox Chapel Area School District hired me a week before classes began, to teach music and oversee the strings program throughout the district, I had just finished the coursework for my doctorate and needed health insurance. My trajectory was clear: I would spend a year studying for my comprehensives, begin my dissertation and apply for college teaching positions while earning a salary with health insurance benefits.   My first few weeks at Fox Chapel changed all of this.

On the first day of school there was a rebellion in homeroom over new building policies, the computers did not work in music technology, and orchestra was a nightmare.  Kevin sauntered into class over half an hour late and told me that his friends had dropped orchestra so he decided to join them for lunch.  Georgia, one of the few violists, asked if she would be able to continue using orchestra as a study hall.  A violinist settled into her boyfriend’s lap in the cello section.  I looked around and wondered if I had made a colossal error.  However, over the next few weeks, I learned how to fix the computers, run moderately effective orchestra rehearsals, and listen to teenagers.  My students joked with me and criticized me.  I sat with them as planes flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a nearby field in Pennsylvania. I discovered that my passion for music was matched by a passion for teaching teenagers and learning from them.  One by one, I began to know my students and I realized that I had found a new career.

During those first weeks, I often thought of teachers who made the most difference in my life. I thought of my parents who approached life as a lesson and viewed our dinner table as the family classroom.  I thought of my first violin teacher, Patience Berg, whose lessons were a mixture of inspiration and imagination. I thought of Zvi Zeitlin, my college professor, who gave me both the tools to solve musical problems and the discipline to use those tools. I thought of classroom teachers, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Ketchum and Miss Wood, who acknowledged my idiosyncratic right-brained thought processes and demanded higher results. I also thought of the times when dedicated teachers were scarce in my life, most notably during high school. I realized that the teachers who made a difference not only saw the student who stood before them but also saw her potential.  I wanted to be one of those teachers.

During my career as a teacher I have written curriculum, designed lesson plans, developed new courses, advised multiple student teachers, mentored new teachers in our school district, and served on many committees.  However, my greatest contributions have been largely unseen.  These unseen moments -- borne out of a mutual respect between my students and myself -- reflect the central importance of relationships in teaching.  These contributions occur as I guide a student who has lost a parent, listen to a child deal with the fear of her parent losing a job for the second time that year, strategize with a student about negotiating schedules in a family that is pushed to the limit, or simply give someone lunch money.  These personal connections are the most rewarding, and sometimes the most challenging.

In concert with these contributions are public accomplishments.  As a music teacher, my work is invariably viewed in the public eye.  While I take personal pride in my teaching awards from the American String Teacher’s Association and Yale University, my students’ concerts are the most rewarding accomplishments for me.  Over the past four years, my students have performed for Maestros Honeck and Noseda from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, accompanied members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and helped to create incredible interdisciplinary works, “Grand Salons,” in our school district.  My orchestra has performed everywhere from Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal to Symphony Hall in Chicago.  I love watching the parents greet their children after a concert – they have a newfound sense of amazement and respect on their faces.

Of all of our concerts, there is one that holds a special place in my memory.  My orchestra held a benefit concert to support research on Friedreich’s ataxia, a debilitating disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system, eventually impacting the heart. One of my first students, a talented cellist, had been diagnosed with this horrific disease.  Some alumni had suggested that we host the concert and my then students quickly took over the reins of the project.  Few knew the cellist personally; yet, they gave freely of their time and talent.  Alumni and current students joined together to educate a community about the Friedreich’s ataxia, raise five thousand dollars, and make music.

That concert reflected the essence of my love of teaching.  I looked at the orchestra on stage and was reminded of Seurat’s masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte.”  The overall picture was balanced and harmonious much like the Seurat’s characters and landscape. And just as the genius of Seurat’s work lies in his individual strokes or “points” of paint, the heart of that evening was the absolute commitment and contribution of every musician on stage.  I took the podium, looked at Georgia in the viola section, smiled at Nick playing bass, shook hands with my concertmaster, Paul and knew that I had made the right choice.  Teaching was something I was destined to do.

 

My Resume


TEACHING EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

Fox Chapel Area School District                                                                               2001-present
High School Orchestra Director (2001-present)
8th grade Orchestra Director (2003-2005)
Elementary Strings Teacher (2007-2013)

Duquesne University, Adjunct Faculty                                                                      Spring 2009
Taught Music Education Methods (Junior-level class)

Carnegie Mellon University, Adjunct Faculty                                                           Spring 2008
Taught String Methods (Junior-level class)

Carnegie Mellon Summer String Workshop                                      Summer 2007, 2008, 2009
Middle School Orchestra Director

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Camp                                                       Summer 2005, 2006
Orchestra Director (Elementary School students)

West Virginia University, Graduate Assistant                                                             1998-2001
Taught secondary violin and coached violin students weekly
Taught freshman aural skills class
Taught sophomore music theory class

Governor School for the Arts, Faculty, West Virginia                                          Summer 1998
Auditioned and taught improvisation, chamber music, music theory and private lessons to a select group of high   school musicians

Seton Hill University, Part-time Faculty                                                                       1992-1998
Instructor of violin and viola  (all college students)
Taught Form and Analysis (Juniors), Experiencing Music, Counterpoint (Sophomores), String Methods (Sophomores), Western Cultural Traditions (Sophomores)


EDUCATION

West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Doctor of Musical Arts, Violin Performance and Literature, ABD, 2006

The Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Master of Music, Violin Performance and Literature, 1992
Bachelor of Music, Violin Performance and Literature, 1990
 

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

NAfME (National Association for Music Education)

  • Member, 2001-present

PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Association)

  • Member, 2001-present
  • State Board, Professional Development representative for District 1, June 2012-June 2014
  • District 1, High School Professional Development Representative, 2009-present
    • Helped to design and run one-day conference for local music educators
  • Conferences (2001-2009)
    • Attended and presided over conference sessions (2002-present)
    • Sponsored student performances (2008)

PADESTA/ASTA (Pennsylvania/Delaware String Teachers’ Association)

  • Member, 2001-present

NPBTS (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards)

  • Scored portfolios of candidates for National Board Certification, Summer 2008

FOX CHAPEL AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT

  • Differentiated Instruction District-level Comprehensive Seminar and Follow-up Experiences
    • a study of effective instructional program principles and practices to address the needs of all learners

  • Embedded Professional Education series including "21st Century" student learning focus and capacity building in the area of technological tools
    • on-line professional literature review and collegial synch point discussion groups

  • PEP – Professional Education Program
    • Developed a comprehensive assessment system for individual performance of orchestral students

    • Developed a comprehensive system to communicate individual student progress on string instruments from grade 3 through graduation

  • Curriculum Management System skill development
    • utilizing the backward design (standards-based) mapping process, i.e., identifying desired results (what students should know, understand and be able to do at the end of units of instruction), assessment evidence, and learning experiences.

  • Literacy Skills Enhancement (supporting a cross-curricular initiative to build content area reading and writing skills)

GRADUATE COURSEWORK

  • West Virginia University, completed coursework for doctorate and passed comprehensive exams

PERFORMANCE

  • Multiple performances as a violinist with the Laurel String Quartet, the Giambelli String Quartet, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Bach Choir Orchestra, as well as various solo performances

 
STAFF DEVELOPMENT

  • Chairperson, Music Department, Fox Chapel Area High School
    • Coordinated professional development opportunities for music staff throughout the district

    • Helped run meetings for music staff

    • Coordinated curriculum for string teachers throughout the district

  • Mentor
    • Mentored new high school choir director

    • Mentored middle school orchestra director

    • Mentor young string teachers in other school districts

  • Curriculum development
    • Coordinated and developed curriculum for high school music department

    • Wrote proposals for two new music course: History of Rock and Roll and World Music

      • Currently writing curriculum for these courses (they are being piloted)

    • Wrote new curriculum for AP Music Theory to address AP Audit requirements

    • Coordinated continuity in orchestra curriculum throughout the school district 
       

CONTRIBUTIONS TO FUTURE TEACHERS

  • Organized annual PMEA District 1 conference for music education majors, as well as, current music educators

  • Cooperative teacher for student teachers (2005-present)

  • Taught music education methods classes at Seton Hill University, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University

  • Actively mentor younger teachers in the area
     

TEACHING AWARDS

  • 2015 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year

  • Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools; Exemplary Program Award

  • Yale Distinguished Music Educator

  • 2006 Pennsylvania/Delaware String Teachers Association Outstanding New Orchestra Teacher Award

  • Teacher Excellence Center
    • Nominated 2007-2008
    • Nominated 2005-2006
    • Nominated 2004-2005