Baltimore County Rookie Recognition Award winner Katie Seymour (B.M.E. Voice, ‘15) discusses mentorship, critical classroom management skills, and the importance of an inclusive music curriculum.
UMD School of Music alumna Katie Seymour (B.M.E. Voice, ‘15) was one of ten educators to receive a 2017 Rookie Recognition Award from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO). Presented to those with five or fewer years of teaching experience in Baltimore County, the award acknowledges educators who go the extra mile to benefit their school community.
Given the many ways in which Katie nurtures her students at Pleasant Plains Elementary School, it’s no wonder she received this honor. In her two years of teaching full time, Katie single-handedly directed a full-scale production of The Lion King-Kids; she successfully conducted a fundraising campaign that allowed her to purchase new broadcast and audio equipment; she volunteered after school as an English tutor, and she served as a mentor for English language learners.
We took a moment to catch up with this enthusiastic and indefatigable music educator to learn about her daily routine and future goals. During our chat, Katie shared the challenges she faced during her first years of teaching and discussed why it’s especially important for music educators to create an inclusive curriculum and classroom environment.
What’s your daily routine?
Every day, I teach five classes with one planning break. I usually spend lunch with students through the safe school ambassador program and mentor program. I also offer “lunch bunches,” where students can eat their lunch with me. After school, I stay late to tutor students on phonics or lead a rehearsal. Or, I’m taking graduate classes in special education — I’ll graduate next May with my master’s degree in special education!
Why do you find it important to volunteer for a variety of mentoring programs at Pleasant Plains?
It’s so important to volunteer for mentoring programs because being a teacher today doesn’t necessarily mean just teaching. Somewhat inadvertently, educators take on many other roles. Sometimes, I’m a teacher, a special educator, a role model and a mentor. To the best of my ability, I want to be whatever the child needs. Mentorship is meaningful because not every child consistently hears positive affirmations from the adults in their lives. I serve as a mentor so I can remind my students that they’re awesome and help them feel more comfortable and confident being whom they are.
What are your goals for yourself as a music educator in the next year?
I would love to direct another musical, as the kids enjoy it, and I’d like to establish a solid theater program at the school. I also plan to integrate more special education teaching techniques into the standard music curriculum to make learning more easily accessible for everyone.
Why is it important for music educators to make their curriculum inclusive?
As a music teacher, you work with the entire school and therefore, students of varying needs and abilities. It’s quite possible that a student with special needs works with another professional aid one-on-one in every subject except music class. It’s important that we can adjust our teaching for all kinds of learners.
What advice would you give to other rookie music educators?
I think it’s important to get extra training in special education so you can teach the many different types of learners. This is why I’m pursuing a master’s degree in special education. I’d also recommend doing a crisis intervention training, which teaches you how to deactivate an escalating situation in your classroom. It’s very beneficial to know individual student triggers and stressors in order to create a more peaceful learning environment catered to each student. You really have to take time to get to know your students. They’re not going to care until you show them how much you care about them.
How did UMD prepare you for your career?
I really appreciated how much time we spent in the county public schools. Classroom management is by far the biggest hurdle I’ve faced during my first years of teaching, and it’s not something that can be taught. Fortunately, UMD placed us in elementary and secondary schools as early as our sophomore year so we could start working on those skills.
UMD also required us to complete mock student learning objectives or “SLOs,” which is how we collect and evaluate student data in Baltimore County in order to show how a child is improving across the quarter. Gaining all of this important “on the job” training during my undergraduate helped me feel confident and prepared when it came time to apply for a job. It also enabled me to make a smooth transition into teaching full-time. I am incredibly grateful for all of the mentoring I received from my music education professors at UMD, but am specifically grateful for Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Elpus. They truly go above and beyond when preparing future educators. I would highly recommend UMD to anyone considering entering the music education field. I cannot thank UMD enough!
Photo provided by Katie Seymour, pictured center.