Emily Alexander is a 2010 graduate of Colorado College with a Bachelor’s Degree in music and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in K-12 music. During her time at CC, Alexander sang in the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, conducted by Deborah Jenkins Teske. During her pursuit of her undergraduate’s degree, Alexander realized not only did she love music and singing, but she also developed a strong appreciation for her courses at CC and loved learning about the math, science and art of music.
Alexander’s favorite undergraduate classes were her technical musical classes, because learning the science behind music “helped deepen [her] love” for the art. Alexander has dedicated much of her time teaching these more technical aspects of music to her own students, because her classes at CC were so influential in her career.
“CC was the perfect place to prepare me for my teaching career,” said Alexander when describing her experience in the MAT program. Working with her cohorts and people who were equally passionate was motivational and constructive. Between student teaching, writing a thesis and attending classes, Alexander laughed, “we were all down in the trenches, and then we all came out together.”
Despite her success and her level of comfort now, Alexander spoke to the transition from graduate school to the “real world”, saying it isn’t as easy as some make it out to be. Alexander said, “your first year as a teacher is going to kick your butt no matter what. There’s no way you’re going to know what is going to happen. Every day there’s something new, and you just kind of learn from trial by fire.”
Since graduating, Alexander has taught choir to sixth, seventh and eight graders at Cimarron Middle School in Douglas County. Alexander chose to teach middle-school students because she believes it is a great time to “help kids find their passion. And if they don’t find that in music, to help them find something they are passionate about.”
Since Alexander began teaching at Cimarron, the choir program has grown enormously to 320 students. With the expansion of the program, she has had the opportunity to implement interdisciplinary lessons—her favorite kind of lessons to teach. She focuses on the meaning and history behind music as well as the scientific and mathematical components of it. By teaching from multiple angles, Alexander believes “kids can take ownership over the discipline.”
Alexander truly thinks that her class is a different place than other classes, because no other discipline “does quite exactly what we do.” She thinks choir teaches life lessons, because “students learn how to overcome fears and work towards common goals.”
If there is one piece of advice Alexander would give to new teachers, regardless of the discipline they are in, it is: “If you are going to be a teacher, make positive phone calls home as much as you can.”
Most parents only receive phone calls when something bad has happened, or parents don’t hear any news from school at all. Calling home to tell parents how well their children are doing “really builds a positive learning community, especially between kids and their parents.”
Today, outside of teaching at Cimarron, Alexander sings with Kantorei, a professional-caliber choral ensemble based in Denver. She is also a member of the Colorado Music Educators Association, where she takes part in professional development programs and attends their annual conference. This organization is incredibly helpful because it creates a network and accessible resources for music teachers, who are so unique in their work.
“I have loved working in education, and right now I would like to stay in the classroom and stay engaged and energized,” said Alexander. As a Colorado native she does not see herself leaving the state anytime soon. In the future however, she thinks she might like to transition into adult education, or teaching teachers.