Master Teacher Interview With Allison Umhoefer
by Chery Miracle, WMEA Vice President, Southeast District
Allison Umhoefer has been a music educator at Franklin High School (FHS) since 2009. Upon graduation from Cudahy High School, Allison went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education (2009) from the UW-Madison, where she studied with Linda Bartley (clarinet), Catherine Kautsky (piano) and Scott Teeple (conducting). At FHS, Mrs. Umhoefer teaches wind ensemble, symphonic band, concert band, marching/pep band, jazz ensemble, Introduction to Piano, and AP Music Theory. She also conducts the pit orchestra for the spring musical and serves as the FHS Music Department team leader.
What was your earliest memory of music?
Music has been a part of Mrs. Umhoefer’s life from the start. Allie’s mom plays piano, guitar and sings. Her dad plays the flute. Allie started piano lessons at age four and often performed backyard shows with her sister and friends from the neighborhood.
Why did you choose music education as your path?
Allie truly loved school as a child so an educational path was an obvious choice. Simply put, she loves working with and helping others. After considering other subject areas, including mathematics, Allie decided that music education was the most natural choice for her. She was fortunate to have many amazing music teachers in Cudahy and was inspired by them. Allie especially remembers how her high school band director challenged and motivated her during her senior year.
What is your biggest accomplishment in your education career so far?
Mrs. Umhoefer feels that there hasn’t been one specific event or accomplishment that she is especially proud of, but rather an evolution over the course of her seven years in the profession. There had been turnover in staffing during the four years prior to her employment at Franklin High School and Allie wanted to provide the needed stability and consistency to stabilize the program. Over the course of her career so far, she has worked to foster a connection with students, parents, and the Franklin community in order to create and build a program that is growing and thriving.
How do you motivate your students?
According to Allie, everything comes down to the relationships that you build. She takes time to get to know her students’ musical goals and interests, as well as learning about their involvement outside of the music classroom. The concept of a “growth mindset” is key, and Allie constantly works to challenge her students. Mrs. Umhoefer also believes that high-quality literature draws on her students’ intrinsic motivation to do well and strives to motivate her students through the music she programs.
With more focus on accountability in the classroom and limited school funding, how do you plan to keep your music program strong?
Allie is very fortunate to have a strong background in Comprehensive Musicianship Through Performance (CMP) through her studies at UW-Madison and student teaching in Verona. The CMP approach to teaching and curriculum has served Allie well regardless of the situation or climate. She believes that the students, parents, and administration see the value in the depth, quality and comprehensive nature of what she offers her students in the classroom.
Describe your ideal day with your students?
To sum things up in two words: Mrs. Umhoefer’s ideal day would be student-centered and student-driven. She takes pride in allowing for an environment where her students are in the lead. Her students are constantly asking questions, providing input, taking ownership for the learning process, and feeling proud of the growth they have achieved.
What advice do you have for young music educators?
Allie recommends that throughout your career, remain passionate about what you do. Continue to learn about your craft. Be sure to collaborate and build relationships with students, colleagues, parents and the community. Also, work to find balance between your work life and personal life, which will help you stay energized and will also enhance the experiential knowledge that you will bring to your teaching.