Photos and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Amy Lynn Sierzega was born and raised in Williamston. She is an alumna of Michigan State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in music education and is currently pursuing her master’s degree through the College of Music’s summer graduate program.
Sierzega is an assistant conductor and member of the Washtenaw Community Concert Band, teaches early childhood music classes through Eastern Michigan University’s Community Music Academy, and currently serves as president of the Michigan Chapter of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning.
She lives in Whitmore Lake, is passionate about studying the processes through which children learn music, and is currently in her fourth year teaching K-5 vocal music and 5th grade band at Lakewood Elementary.
See her in action here:
What was always written on your report card in grade school music class? “Amy is a hard worker!” I used to struggle with finding my singing voice and matching pitch. This is one reason why I am so passionate about helping my students find and use their voices. I believe that all people are musical and that music is essential to experiencing connection, expression, and other elements of humanity.
What inspired you to become a teacher? My school music experience inspired my love for music and music teaching, but my tenth grade English teacher also influenced my career choice. I hope that I can be the kind of teacher for my students that she was for me: patient, caring, and encouraging.
In your four years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing I have learned about teaching and learning is in understanding that we, as human beings, all carry implicit bias. Reckoning with this bias has informed my understanding of equity, justice, and culturally responsive teaching.
Describe an average workday. As a music teacher, I have the privilege of teaching every child in the school two to four times a week. Almost every class involves direct whole-group instruction, which is unique, exhausting, and exhilarating all at once! I enjoy the quick pace and seeing multiple grade levels in one day. An average workday for me involves plenty of morning coffee, arriving at Lakewood to set up instruments and materials for the day’s lessons, greeting students in the hall, teaching my morning classes, working with students during lunch on recorder or ukulele, teaching my afternoon classes, and resetting materials for the next day. Depending on the day, my evenings are filled with my own rehearsals for the bands I play in, school concerts/events, district meetings, lesson planning, time with friends, and/or time at the gym.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? Ask for help when needed. Take time to critically reflect upon your practice, even when it’s difficult. Schedule time to do non-school work on evenings and weekends. Be gentle and kind to yourself and your mistakes, just as you are gentle and kind to your students and their mistakes.
What’s the happiest part of your day? I have the privilege of greeting students as they enter the building in the morning. I love to see their smiling faces. Almost every day, at least one student asks, “Do we get to have music today?!” That certainly puts a smile on my face!
Favorite websites: Chrome Music Lab, Kahoot, Noteflight, and SafeShare.
Finish this sentence: I wish I had gone into any other field but teaching when … my students kept passing on their illnesses to me during my first year of teaching!
And this one: I’m happy I went into teaching when … students voluntarily come to my room during their lunch recess time to make music.
Apps you can’t live without: iDoceo (a teacher grade book app) helps me track all of my students, seating charts, assessments, student/parent contact info, and much more.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? I wish I had known just how much better my subsequent years of teaching were going to be! The first year is hard because there is so much that you just have to figure out through doing and experiencing a full school year.
How do you keep students engaged? I do my best to engage students by involving them in actively making music from the moment they walk into the music room to the moment they leave.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching K-5 music is seeing how my students grow and develop as musicians from year to year. I love to see students discover and make connections in their music learning as they begin to build foundations for lifelong music making.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish everyone realized that our jobs do not stop when we walk out of our classrooms at the end of the day. Investing as a teacher means investing in children; it is work that we do not take lightly and it is work that we carry with us in our hearts and minds, always.
How do you recharge? I typically recharge by listening to music, performing music, reading silently, or spending time with friends.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? Professionally, I am extremely excited to be pursuing my master’s degree. My experience in the summer program at MSU has provided opportunities to deeply consider issues of sociology, philosophy, curriculum, and research as they relate to music, education, and music education.
Personally, I am excited to be moving to Ann Arbor this summer. I look forward to continuing to build relationships, becoming more involved in my church and community, and making Ann Arbor my home.
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