After graduating from Indiana University, I accepted a teaching position in Greensburg Community Schools as an instrumental and general music teacher. I taught beginning band, middle school band, middle school jazz band, and general music. Greensburg is a small, rural community about one hour southeast of Indianapolis, and I had students who lived in affluent neighborhoods as well as students who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods. Some of my students were from families where both parents had graduate degrees, while some were from families where no one had yet graduated from high school. Growing up rather sheltered, it was my first time working closely with impoverished and, in some cases, neglected children. I will never forget a student who had been known as “passive-resistant” to participate in school at all. No one had graduated high school in his family. Using differentiated instruction to attempt to reach him in my general music classroom, one day he raised his hand to answer a question. I knew that was likely the first time he had ever offered an answer in a class. It changed my life forever, because I was committed to making every effort to reach all students.
After two years teaching in Greensburg, I had the opportunity to join a fantastic music program in San Diego County that was starting over after several years hiatus. The San Dieguito Unified High School District had extremely wealthy families, from the shores of the ocean to modest housing where many families had recently migrated to the United States. I enjoyed teaching band and choir at two middle schools and a high school - but it was also eye-opening to the extreme budget restrictions. Traveling between three schools each day, finding creative ways to work around limited fundraising opportunities - all while living as a rent-burdened teacher with a long commute proved to be a challenge. Ultimately, I realized I missed my family and returned to Indiana.
Back in Indiana, I accepted a position as an optician in an regional chain eyeglass store - thinking I would take some time to work outside of education before settling down again in a teaching position. I was quickly promoted to store manager at a different location and eventually promoted to a regional sales position at the corporate level. As proud as I was of my successes, something was missing: teaching. After two years in the optical industry, I decided to return to teaching and applied for a music teacher position at Bishop Noll Institute - a private 7-12 Catholic school in Hammond, Indiana.