Teacher Appreciation Week feature: Jennifer Gebczyk, Online Music Ed Student
2022 Teacher Appreciation Week
When you think about your dream job, favorite subject, or ultimate passion, who comes to mind? Who helped you discover that interest? We’ll give you a hint. It starts with a “t” and ends with “r.” That’s right, a teacher! For many of us, we often think back to a particular teacher who empowered us to go for our dreams, who taught us about a topic we found surprisingly captivating, and who took an interest in our well-being.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and we’re celebrating at CFA by recognizing CFA students who are also educators! Every day this week (May 2-May 6), we will feature a teacher who’ll speak about their experience as a teacher, how the CFA program they’re currently studying is helping them advance in their careers, and what Teacher Appreciation Week means to them.
Meet Jennifer Gebczyk, CFA Online Music Education Student
At the young age of 13, Jennifer Gebczyk knew she wanted to be a music teacher, providing a space for positive musical experiences and joy. Now, an elementary school music teacher and Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education candidate at BU, Jennifer’s view as an educator has widened. In the Q&A with Jennifer, she shares with CFA what she enjoys most about teaching, how the DMA program has allowed her to connect current research to her teaching practice, specifically in teaching students of diverse learning abilities, and what Teacher Appreciation Week means to her.
CFA: What inspired you to become a teacher?
I knew that I wanted to be a music teacher when I was 13 years old. The positive musical experiences, joy, and belongingness that I felt as a middle school choral and band student are what inspired me to become a music teacher. I wanted to provide a space for belongingness and share positive musical experiences and joy with others.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I am currently teaching kindergarten through fifth-grade general music in Lilburn, Georgia. I’ve learned so much not only as a teacher but also as a person from being in a classroom for 21 years. Teaching has provided the opportunity for me to meet and work with thousands of students and families and many amazing colleagues. Because I have the privilege of teaching the entire school as a general music teacher, I get to witness the beauty and diversity of humanity. I love seeing students express themselves through music and taking pride in their performances. I also enjoy findings ways for students to make connections with each other, to current and multicultural music, and subject matter that is personally meaningful to them.
Can you share some of your career highlights/proudest moments?
When students approach me years after leaving my classroom and fondly share a memory from their time in my classroom, I feel proud knowing that what we’ve done together in music has made an impact. Several of my former students have pursued music education as a career which is exciting!
Have you faced any challenges as an educator and if so, how did you overcome them?
Teaching is not without any challenges- that is part of the job. The toughest challenge for me was teaching both digital and in-person learners during the 2020-21 school year. I tried to provide the digital learners with lessons that were comparable to the lessons that the in-person students were getting which meant videotaping lessons for my digital learners and finding or creating virtual instruments for them. The instrument piece was difficult until I learned how to create and code instruments using Scratch. While they weren’t the same as traditional instruments, the students could click on pictures or press specific keys on their computers for the sounds to play and perform along with the music lessons.
What does Teacher Appreciation Week mean to you?
Teacher Appreciation Week is a week in which we should honor educators and reflect on the complexities and challenges of the teaching profession. To truly appreciate teachers, one must try to understand and value what teachers experience daily.
If someone were to tell you at this moment, “I want to be a teacher,” what advice would you give them?
I would honestly explain that teaching is a challenging profession, but also endlessly rewarding. I would also advise them to keep an open mind and adopt the mindset of being a lifelong learner. The challenges in education are dynamic, and therefore, educators must commit to adapting and evolving along with changes. Lastly, I would advise them to give themselves grace and prioritize self-care throughout their career.
How would you describe your experience as an online student at CFA?
My experience as an online student at CFA has been the most rigorous experience of my formal education, but also the best experience. Prior to beginning the DMA program, I was very much in a bubble having not realized the numerous challenges, inequities, and funding discrepancies in education. I have learned so much through instructors’ discussions, assigned reading and research assignments, discussions among classmates from all over the world, and I’ve also learned a lot about myself as an educator and student. I’ve gained friends and colleagues from the program that I continue to communicate with years after the end of the coursework phase of the program.
What do you hope to get out of the DMA in Music Education program?
I have already gotten so much out of this program. I did not begin the DMA journey for the title or a pay increase, but rather to grow myself as an educator so I might better teach and reach my current and future students. Through research, I have been able to stay updated about best practices related to maintaining an inclusive and accessible learning environment.
How do you think the program will help you in your career as an educator?
My worldview as an educator has widened. I am thankful that BU includes music-specific social justice content in which we can interrogate our views and philosophy. Additionally, the ability to conduct research has allowed me to connect current research to my teaching practice, specifically in teaching students of diverse learning abilities.
Doing any interesting research?
I am currently researching music teacher development related to teaching music to students with disabilities.
What other passions/hobbies do you have outside of teaching?
I love hanging out with my husband and three kids, loving on our fur baby, reading non-fiction, and watching Georgia Bulldogs football.
Learn more on CFA’s DMA Music Education Online Program