Master Teacher Interview With Sharie Garcia
By Cheryl Miracle, WMEA Vice President, Southeast District
What is the best part of being a music teacher; why do you wake up and do what you do each day? The best part is absolutely the kids! Sharie initially came from Canada to the Milwaukee area for graduate studies and to pursue a career as a post secondary music professor. During that time, she worked with the UWM Youth Wind Ensemble and fell in love working with high school musicians. After completing her graduate degree, she decided to get her education certificate and immediately found a job as a high school band director at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.
What are the biggest challenges of teaching in an urban school district? The biggest challenge for Sharie is the density of the bureaucracy in the public schools. The fact that so many decisions are made in isolation at a distance from actual students in the classroom. If more administrators, and even politicians, would spend even a little bit of time in our schools, they would come to very different conclusions and make different decisions. Changes need to be made this year to make a difference in how instrumental music works in our district, or will not exist. Sharie can’t bear the thought of kids not having the opportunity to make music. It’s important for administrators to look for educators that have the right personality and can connect with the students, otherwise, little gets done.
How can schools do a better job to retain skilled educators? According to Sharie, one of the biggest thing schools can do is provide for job descriptions and workloads that are manageable. The future of licensure in our state will demand that a music teacher be able to teach everything K-12. Certain aspects of music are not for “dabblers.” For example, in order to be an effective instrumental teacher, there is so much to know that it is hard to also have the knowledge to teach multiple other content areas. Teaching to your passion is a really important part of the effective music classroom and creating positions that match the knowledge and skills of the instructor are important. The burnout rate is high when you are asked to wear many hats at once. Sharie feels we need a think tank of people to examine how we can boost this career to something more desirable that will pay the bills, repay the loans, and provide professional satisfaction.
What helps you balance your work/life balance? Sharie didn’t have children for the first eight years of teaching so she was able to mold her job based on her personal strengths. The first five years were tough, but eventually, she was able to make her music program into what she wanted it to be. The hardest thing for her has been to save a little bit of energy so she has enough energy for her own children once she is home from school. Her own husband and children are also musicians which helps them relate to each other and find a deeper connection through music.