music educator

Jeff Bradbury — ISTE award-winning and globally recognized digital learning strategist, educational broadcaster, public speaker, and entrepreneur

Jeff Bradbury — ISTE award-winning and globally recognized digital learning strategist, educational broadcaster, public speaker, and entrepreneur
About Jeff Bradbury

Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast) is a Technology Integration Specialist in New Jersey and the creator of the TeacherCast Educational Network.  With a background in Music Education, Jeff began performing in front of live audiences at a very early age and grew to love the opportunities he had working with others.  This led him to earn his Bachelor of Science in Music Education in 2001 and eventually his Masters in Music Performance in Orchestral Conducting in 2010.

After several years of being a Music Director for both Orchestra’s and Opera Companies in the New York / Philadelphia region, including an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall he left the musical stage and began work on building the TeacherCast Educational Network.

Created as a passion project to assist teachers in understanding educational technology, Jeff recorded the first TeacherCast Podcast in the summer of 2011.  Since then the TeacherCast Network has been accessed in almost 180 countries and has amassed a following of more than 50,000 followers on Social Media.  With more than 1,000 audio and video podcasts recorded featuring more than 500 EdTech Companies and thousands of educators, TeacherCast is rated as one of the top 50 educational websites.

In 2018, Jeff created the TeacherCast Tech Coaches Network to support Instructional Technology Coaches and EducationalPodcasting.com, a learning portal to teach educators how to infuse podcasting into their curriculum.

Jeff Bradbury is a Google for EDU Certified Innovator & Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert & Trainer, and a TEDx Speaker.  In 2012, he was recognized as one of the Top 50 Educators Using Social Media at the inaugural Bammy Awards and was nominated three times in the category of Innovator of the Year.

Sought after as a professional development presenter, Jeff Bradbury, co-founder of Edcamp New Jersey, has presented at the ISTE & FETC and Podcast Movement Conferences, presented Keynote Addresses for Pearson, Podcast Mid-Atlantic Conference, and Columbia University’s Teacher College.

Jeff is married to Jennifer and is the father of an amazing set of triplets.

Connect with Jeff: Email | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

TeacherCast Educational Network

Bachelor of Music in Music Education Programs – West Chester University

Masters in Music Performance in Orchestral Conducting – West Chester University

Carnegie Hall

TeacherCast Podcasts

Google Certified Innovator Program

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) Program


Edcamp New Jersey

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)

Pearson Education

Podcast Mid-Atlantic Conference

Columbia University’s Teacher College

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. Today, we have a very special guest, Jeff Bradbury. Jeff is an ISTE award-winning and globally recognized digital learning strategist, educational broadcaster, professional speaker, and entrepreneur whose powerful message has impacted thousands of educators through his TeacherCast educational network. He’s also a musician and soon to be author of another book. Jeff, please take a moment and introduce yourself and tell us about impact standards.

Jeff Bradbury
Sam, it is great to see you again. Thanks so much for having me on. My name is Jeff Bradbury. I’m from Connecticut and I’ve been an educator for the last 20 years, father of the amazing Edu Triplets. They’re now 10 years old, going on 11. I can’t believe it. They’re going to be in fifth grade soon. And I’m looking forward to a great summer, and I’m looking forward to working with a lot of great teachers. My new book is coming out soon. It’s called Impact Standards, talking about how can we use the ISTE standards for digital learning to really make a difference in the classroom, and how can we set our teachers and students up for success so that way individualized professional learning can be attained.

Sam Demma
One of the challenges of the human experience is determining where to invest your energy. You are someone with multiple skill sets in so many different things. How did you decide serving educators and education was your pathway?

Jeff Bradbury
It’s funny, you ask a lot of teachers that same question. Many of them say, it just hit me. I don’t ever remember growing up a day that I said I want to be a teacher. It’s just always something. I’ve been a performer ever since I was two, three years old. Getting up on stage was just second nature, which lent myself to becoming a musician, and then becoming a music director, and an orchestra conductor, and an opera conductor. And then just being in front of people has just been always natural to me. So being able to share what I love, share my passions with others, that is essentially being a teacher. And so I’ve been in the classroom now between orchestra and technology for the last 20 years. And it’s been absolutely a blast.

Sam Demma
That’s amazing. Where did your educational journey begin? And when you were finishing it up, where did it wrap?

Jeff Bradbury
You know, I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and the school district had like a thousand people per graduating class. My orchestra was huge. So always, always living in the music room, always living in the band room. I was one of those kind of kids and had a fantastic time as an undergrad. Got a chance to really experience what it was like to work with others. I had amazing student teaching experiences working in some fantastic schools. And then just really getting that first job and having a good time and really seeing the smiles on kids’ faces and working with adults in the last 10, 12 years or so, it’s just rewarding. And getting a chance to, as the book says, having an impact on others has been an amazing journey.

Sam Demma
When in your educational journey did digital learning become a huge focus of your work?

Jeff Bradbury
So I was a music director for about 15 years or so, and then at some point in time, my school district started asking me to give professional development sessions. That led me to figure out, okay, how do I do this? Where do I find the information? Which led me to creating the podcast. And then through the podcast, I got known in the technology circles. I made some connections at some pretty big companies. And next thing you know, I’m an instructional coach, which an instructional coach is somebody who goes in and works with teachers. And it’s basically that in the classroom, hand-on-hand professional learning. My job is to help that teacher use technology to its finest in the classroom. And then it really just grew from there. Instead of working with teachers, you’re working with coaches, and then you become an administrator and you’re working with school districts. And then when you go to some of these big conferences, now you’re working with district leaders, and you’re working with ed tech companies. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with the world’s largest companies out there and really do my best to make a difference in this world. And I’ve had an amazing ride. It’s been fantastic. And now I’m seeing my kids are starting to do that too. And they’re getting a chance to make videos and make podcasts and create websites and record themselves reading. It’s been pretty awesome.

Sam Demma
I have a speaking friend named Tom Pache. He also is a middle school teacher. He FaceTimed me recently. And while FaceTiming me, he was in his grade six classroom after their students had just watched a video on YouTube. And he was holding a microphone and he was walking around the room, putting the mic in front of students and they were sharing what they learned from watching this video. He quite literally turned his classroom into a performance, into a stage, into an auditorium. It was a really cool call. And it made me think about how when we use technology efficiently, it amplifies the experience in the classroom. What are some of the things that teachers can do to create better experiences in their classrooms leveraging and using technology?

Jeff Bradbury
You know, I was talking about this earlier. As a teacher, you only have one job, and it is to inspire. And how do we do that depends on the student, but I like to do my best to open their eyes up a little bit. You know, in my current position, I started in this school district in January of this year. And you could tell right away that my class or the class that I was creating was just a little bit different than what they were used to. And it took a little bit of time for them to get used to me, my energy and my, you know, sense of teaching and the way that I present lessons and stuff like that. But the students who really took to it, it was amazing to see their transformation. When they walked in, they were ready to go and they’re looking for different models and projects and you name it, and they were becoming creators in just the short amount of time that we had. It was a semester course.

Jeff Bradbury
So I always try to help teachers and students figure out ways to inspire others. I’m just of that belief, it’s not my job to teach, it’s your job to learn. But the only way to do that is by inspiring them to want to be able to do that. And that goes back to being a music director. You’re the only one on stage not making a sound. What’s your function? Your function is to get all of these minds together that can do this without you and get them on the right page and try to set the example for this is what the music should look like, this is what the composer intended, and here’s how we can work together to make that work. If not, it’s 50 people all trying to play the same thing, but they’re doing it differently. You have to set that example for this is the way that we move forward, and then hopefully you inspire everybody to move in that direction.

Sam Demma
An image of Whiplash, the movie, just came to mind, and they’re on stage and he’s beating the drums. 

Jeff Bradbury
And we said this in the music world, it’s the illusion of power. Just because you have a stick doesn’t mean anything. Just because you’re the one standing up with the paycheck in the classroom doesn’t mean anything. You need to get them to inspire. And you do the same thing. You get a chance to work with teachers and students, and you get a chance to travel all around the country. Your job is to inspire them. And I know you do a great job at that. I gotta ask you, what is it like seeing that inspiration on their faces when you’re working with them?

Sam Demma
That’s the work that keeps you coming back. Those are the moments that remind you that the things you’re doing matter. For me, it’s the aha moments when people are nodding their heads in the crowd or approaching you afterward to share a personal story about how something you said impacted them. And crazy enough, it’s things that I’m not even thinking are impactful are connecting the most with certain people because we don’t know what they’re going through or what their experiences are like and how they’re making connections with their own personal examples. Exactly. You have a big conference coming up. Tell us a little bit about it and what you hope to share with the audience.

Jeff Bradbury
You know, the big EdTech conference, called ISTE, I-S-T-E, happens every single summer. I’ve been doing this for the last 12 years or so. Essentially, 20,000 educators overtake a city and they do it in the name of how can we better help our students? And so when you have probably, you know, the equivalent of eight football fields worth of vendor floor, and you have thousands of sessions and panels and keynotes and forums happening all at the same time, magic happens every single year. And I love the opportunity to get out there, not only just to learn, but also to meet people who listen to the show and have a chance to read all the content. It’s great to get to network, but really the best part is just taking a breath. It’s still a business trip, not a vacation. It is that opportunity to get out and just to meet people and to see what is happening in other classrooms and then to bring those ideas back to your school district.

Sam Demma
I’ve met many educators who talk about having a side passion, hobby, or project along with their job. Not many that have done such a phenomenal job creating a project like that, like yourself. What are some of the things you think help you manage both the work as an instructional coach and digital strategist with building the business?

Jeff Bradbury
I have an amazing wife. And it always starts there. This doesn’t happen by itself. And if it does happen by itself, then more often than not, you are by yourself, right? But you need to have a good partner in this world that allows you to be, to do all of this craziness at all hours of the day. And I mean, all hours of the day. But really, you have to have a vision. This is what I’m looking for. It has to also be personal. I’m always the first to say, the work that’s on TeacherCast I’m always the first to say, the work that’s on TeacherCast is for everybody. I’m bringing you on a show, as I did, and we’re gonna have a conversation, and hopefully somebody learns from that. Hopefully somebody, you know, reaches out to you. Maybe somebody’s inspired. Maybe they send it to their kid, and they’re like, I wanna fill my backpack too. But to be honest, the whole project is also very self-serving. The reason it started is because people were asking me questions I didn’t have the answers to. So I created a podcast and I brought you on to it. And I did that again and I did that again. So on one hand, it is my backpack. On one hand, it is my resource hub that if I ever say I need to learn about X, Y, and Z, where do I find the answers? Well, it’s my website. And if I’m creating something that’s useful for me that hopefully is useful for other people. And I always say, if I can help out one teacher, I’m helping 30 students. If I can help out one principal, I’m helping 30 teachers. If I help out a superintendent, I’m helping 30 buildings. And when you get a chance to work in educational technology, you’re helping out 30 states. And it’s that connection of, the smallest ripple in the water always expands. And again, as you mentioned, you never know where that ripple is gonna go.

Sam Demma
The idea of the ripple effect, starting from the superintendent to the principal to the teachers, the student, is such an impactful way to think about serving more people. There’s a lot of teachers I’ve interviewed who talk about making the jump to administration because of that desire to serve. Where did that desire to serve come from in you personally?

Jeff Bradbury
I always look forward and I always try to get to that next level of things because again, you have a bigger audience and you have a new challenge. And, OK, you’ve done this. Well, what else can you do or how many other ways can you do it? And to have the opportunity to serve teachers and mentor and work with, that’s an amazing opportunity. And also it’s a challenge. You’ve got a lot of personalities, you have a lot of egos, you have a lot of policies, you’ve got a lot of challenges, you’ve got all those different things all wrapped up in one. For me, that’s fun. For me, that’s inspiring. And to have the opportunity to then send all that knowledge back and share it with my own kids at the end of the day, that’s pretty cool. When you think of the folks who have mentored you

Sam Demma
When you think of the folks who have mentored you that have played an instrumental role in your life, who are some of those people and what did they do for you that had a really big impact?

Jeff Bradbury
Well, I like the pun for instrumental, first of all. And you know, when I look at that particular term, you know, don’t let people stop you. Right. You can go back 250 years or so. Beethoven was deaf and he still wrote a massive symphony. Don’t let anything around you stop you from doing what you want. Many, many years ago, you know, she wasn’t my wife at the time, but we were at her college, and we were in a studio, and I saw this cup, and the cup said on it, if you think you can or can’t, you’re probably right. And it was a quote from Henry Ford. And for whatever reason, that stuck with me and stuck with me. And that just kind of became that thing. I’m also from Philadelphia, so I always have that chip on my shoulder. Like, you know, don’t don’t don’t tell me that we can’t do this. We’re going to do this right. And it’s always next year. So this whole concept of if you think you can go ahead and do this, you can. And so if you think that you can leave your nest of being an orchestra teacher and head into a completely different career, do it. If you think you can talk to a superintendent and look at them eye to eye and say, this is my thought on how you can run your school district, do it. If you think you can handle having triplets, do it. And if you think you can go work for Microsoft, do it. And I’ve had an opportunity to really, you know, put myself out there and say, here’s what I think. You can take it or you leave it. Some people have taken it, some people have left it, but at the same time, as you’re the example, what do you want to say to the world? Everybody here has a voice and every voice has, you know, substance behind it to matter.

Sam Demma
It sounds like Henry Ford was an inspiration. I noticed you had a quote from him in your TEDx talk. What does it mean to have a spark of innovation?

Jeff Bradbury
At the end of all of my shows, I always end with the following, you know, keep up the great work in your classrooms and continue sharing your passions with your students. And I say that at the end of my talks, I say that at the end of my classes, I say that, and it’s just this idea that no matter where you are, keep sharing something about yourself. Somebody is gonna pick it up and run with it. Somewhere that spark is gonna then create a flame. And you don’t know if that’s somebody’s kids, your kid, a PD session, you never know. When you’re a conductor, you perform, you turn around, and hopefully they’re clapping for you and then everybody goes home. What you don’t know is maybe there’s a three-year-old in the audience that’s going to pick up the violin tomorrow because they saw you. Or what you don’t realize is that, you know, there is somebody who was inspired by that performance to come up and say, hey, I’d like to be in that orchestra. I’d like to try out for your group. You never know where these things are. In technology, it’s even harder. You do a show, you hit the publish button, and you forget about it. There is no audience, there is no applause, and Google stats are, let’s face it, cold. But when you’re at a conference, or when you get an email from somebody, and they say, hey I listened to it and they’re like that got me moving and I’ll give you a quick story about this, you know many many many six or seven years ago at this point. I did a particular show on a particular topic and then three or four years later I was at ISTE and somebody walks up I listen to that and it inspired me to create this conference in Buffalo and because of that And you just see the ripple effect. I had clearly no idea that all this was going on, but when somebody walks up and goes, that was the reason why, and it all just, kind of cool.

Sam Demma
Yeah, spark of innovation. You create those by sharing pieces of yourself with the world. What is a piece of yourself that you have not shared, or a project you’re working on that not many people know about, or something that you think teacher listening might benefit from hearing? Those are three questions in one. Choose which one you like most.

Jeff Bradbury
Take advice, but don’t always listen. You know, everybody has an opinion. So it’s okay to ask for people’s advice. But at the end of the day, you’re the one that’s going around the sun. And so you need to make those decisions. And it’s easy and cliche to go back to, remember that freshman day one, look to the left, look to the right. One of you is not gonna be that speech. I don’t like that. My philosophy is look to the left, look to the right, don’t make their mistakes. I’m never gonna wish that the guy next to me is not here, right? Look around you to see what’s not working. When I, for example, make websites, I have 20 sites up in front of me. I’m learning from all of that information. When I’m writing a blog post, I have all the blog, you know, the high-end bloggers up in front of me, all their content, trying to figure out what’s an intro, what’s a middle, what’s a closing, what’s all of that stuff. Learn from what’s happening around you. Always keep your eyes open because you never know when you’re the one that people are going to be asking. Before coming on this show, I just got two emails saying, would you like to be on a panel at this conference? Yeah, because that’s an amazing opportunity and what an honor to be asked to do all those different things. So always look around you and you never know when you’re the one that’s gonna have the opportunity to inspire others.

Sam Demma
I have a question about some advice from you and I will listen. What are your favorite tech tools that you use that teachers might benefit from learning about or exploring? 

Jeff Bradbury
I’ll throw the question back at you. What’s the one thing that nobody can give you but you always want to have? And the answer is time. And so because of that, when people ask me that question of what’s your favorite, what should they have, or what’s the best, my answer is always, remember, these are all tools. What is going to give you the opportunity to reflect yourself but save you time? I’ll give you an example.

Jeff Bradbury
Movie creating, right? You’re going to, you’re recording this podcast, you’re going to edit this podcast, you’re going to produce this podcast. I’m sure there was a reason for you selecting each of those pieces of technologies. For myself, I’ve chosen my toolbox for no reason other than I memorized the keyboard shortcuts. Doesn’t mean that it’s a better product, a worse product or whatever. If you ask me what my favorite video editor is, I’m gonna give you an option and say, but I don’t use that. You’re gonna say, why not? Well, because I’ve already memorized the keyboard shortcuts over here for this one. So I can do a quicker product over here, even though this one’s got, you know, full and AI and it’s all wonderful and it’s brand new and all that stuff. I’m still using my 10 year old product because I can get through it in five minutes and then I can go be dad. So for me, the best products that are out there are the ones that allow you to express yourself to the best of your abilities and give you the most time back in return. Very vague answer, I get it, but. It’s a helpful answer, though.

Sam Demma
It’s a helpful answer, though. It sounds like step one is to figure out the end result. So for you it was produce and publish a podcast, and then the second question is how can I do that in the quickest way possible, and then you use the tools that drive that efficiency up. 

Jeff Bradbury
My job is not to edit video. My job is to give and get hugs.

Sam Demma
Ah, I love that. Now, how long did it take you to write your new book? I’m sure that was a laborous process. 

Jeff Bradbury
13 years. The book officially started off as a, I’d like to make a book teaching others how to podcast. 13 years ago and nobody picked it up. And so that then turned into, I’d like to make a book about audio and video recording. Nobody wanted that. And then that turned into, let’s do a book about instructional coaching. There was a lot of those coming around. And so I just kept trying and trying and trying and trying and trying. And eventually you find somebody And so I just kept trying and trying and trying and trying and trying. And eventually you find somebody that’s going to answer the door. And eventually it’s OK. This is what it is. And then you get some more ideas and you get some more ideas. And so ninety seven thousand words later we are ready to go. And I have a cover and I’m just I’m at the end of the ballgame here. And it’s just a matter of it’s a time game right now. But again, if you think you can go do something, go do it. And I’m just that person. I’m not going to let anybody tell me no. So there are companies that did turn me down three times. I gave them book A. I gave them book B. I gave them book C. And they’re like, nope, sorry, nope, nope, not, mm-mm, not, mm. And I, okay. But after each one of those, I always had the conversation, why not? What do you look for in a book? And so if you go through and read my manuscript, what you don’t realize is that you’re actually reading six or seven publishers full of advice and information and how to and what not and all those other things. That’s amazing. When can people expect the book? My hope is holiday season. I don’t have an exact date yet, but hopefully by the holidays. I don’t know, but you can always find out. If you follow everything over at teachercast.net, you’ll get the information.

Sam Demma
So people can follow you at teachercast.net. Where else on the internet can they find you?

Jeff Bradbury
Basically everything that says TeacherCast, I’m attached to my LinkedIn is teachercast.net/LinkedIn/teachercast.net/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/you name it its all. It’s all short links. 

Sam Demma
Jeff you’re a lighthouse man. I really appreciate you spreading some of it on the show here today. Keep up the amazing work you’re doing, enjoy the conference this summer, the book release and I look forward to staying in touch and reading your words.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jeff Bradbury

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Becky Stewart – Music Director at Yuba Gardens Intermediate School

Becky Stewart - Music Director at Yuba Gardens Intermediate School
About Becky Stewart

Becky Stewart (@ygtreble) is starting her sixth year as director of music at Yuba Gardens Intermediate School in Olivehurst, California. She graduated with honours from California State University, Sacramento with bachelor’s degrees in Flute Performance, studying with Laurel Zucker, and Music Education.

Becky is a recipient of the 2015 CTA Outstanding First Year Teacher Award, the 2019 Outstanding New Educator award for her district and the 2020 winner of the California Music Educator Association’s Middle School Music Specialist Award. Becky has presented at both California Activity Directors Association and CASMEC state conferences as well as regional student and adult CADA conferences on how to create a positive culture for music at schools.

In 2021, Becky has also had the privilege of being selected to be on the K-8 Music Curriculum Review Team for the Department of Education for the State of California and is on the music faculty for Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp and Cazadero Performing Arts Camp.

This year, Becky will also be taking on an advocacy role on the Capitol Section Board of the California Music Educator’s Association. Becky is also starting her third year as a mentor through the Tri-County Induction Program for beginning music teachers. In her spare time, Becky enjoys Spartan Racing and cruising around in her 1965 Mustang.

Connect with Dave: Email | TikTok | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

The Caring Teacher Award (CTA)

California Music Educator Association (CMEA)

Cazadero Performing Arts Camp

Spartan Racing

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Becky Stewart. Becky is starting her sixth year as the director of music at Yuba garden’s intermediate school in California. She graduated with honors from California state university Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in flute performance, studying with Laurel Zucker and music education.

Sam Demma (01:04):
Becky is a recipient of the 2015 CTA outstanding first year teacher award and 2019 outstanding new educator award for her district and the 2020 winner of the California music educator. Association’s middle school music specialist award. She has performed and spoken at dozens of state conferences and associations. And in her spare time, Becky enjoys Spartan racing and cruising around in her 1965 Mustang. I hope you enjoy this amazing high energy conversation with Becky Stewart, and I will see you on the other side.

Sam Demma (01:44):
Becky, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you virtually all the way from the states, on the podcast here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about, you know, what you do with the educator audience?

Becky Stewart (02:00):
Awesome. So hi, I’m Becky’s Stewart. I am honored to be the music director at Yuba gardens intermediate school in Northern California. And I teach seventh and eighth graders music all the way from beginning band to wind ensemble and choir too.

Sam Demma (02:17):
That’s amazing. And what got you into the arts and music?

Becky Stewart (02:23):
I, my, my story with getting involved involved in band is kind of lame, but I always, my parents, you know, would put on different different shows and, you know, there’s like the public access television, you see different concerts being put on and I saw a flute on stage and it was really shiny and I knew I wanted to play because it was shiny. So, so that’s, and I got, I, my parents were nice enough to buy me a used flute for my next birthday. That’s awesome. So I got, hrivate lessons, hor my 10th birthday, ho get ready for band in middle school. So starting in sixth grade and, h got to be in band in sixth grade, which was a total blast and I went to a private Catholic school growing up and, heah, and that year the band director retired.

Becky Stewart (03:14):
So I only got one year with him. And then after that went through a couple different of, of band directors, but I, I loved band. I loved playing my flute. And then when I got to high school, I ended up switching to a different high school, my, my sophomore year because my middle school ended up closing due to low enrollment. My high school ended up closing due to low enrollment. So I ended up going to a public school in beginning of my junior year. So it closed sophomore year. And then I was able to experience marching band and show choir and jazz band and all these super fun things, got to have the opportunity to play saxophone and some ensembles, and really just had a great time and then decided to major in it in college.

Sam Demma (03:53):
That is so cool. And then when you were growing up, did you think you were gonna play in like an orchestra? Did you end up playing in any groups or did you know while you were going through it that one day you would use that to springboard you back into education?

Becky Stewart (04:08):
Oh yeah, not at all. I knew I enjoyed it a lot. I actually wanted to like switch to electric base my eighth grade year. I don’t no idea why. I think like some other girl was playing it and I was like, that is so cool. And my mom’s like, I bought you this thing, like no way. So I was glad you did that. But I, I just had such a blast with all of my friends in high school. I, my goal when I, cause I originally wanted to be a Marine biologist and that really interested me oceanography really interested me until I got to honors chemistry and my junior year of high school. And I went, oh no, this, this math and science is super, super, super hard. And I was like, I was not having a good time. Yeah. And the one class that I kept coming back to that I kept wanting to the subject that I was excelling at and really found myself wanting to work hard in that class wa was band was instrument. So I like broke the news to my parents saying, Hey, I wanna, you know, major in music in college and mixed reviews. Lots of concerns happen there.

Sam Demma (05:11):
Tell me more about that for a second because I don’t think only students, but also educators sometimes make difficult decisions and following your passion is one of the

Becky Stewart (05:22):
Oh definitely. Definitely. I it was definitely tough because you know, the whole family is like, oh, maybe you should have a plan B you know, and cause nobody else in my, and my family plays music. So it was kind of hard to hard to forge that path. But I knew that I wanted to do it. I knew that it was right thing for me. So I, I kept on going and,uit’s kind of hard, like when your parents don’t fully support you at the beginning, but you know, later on they’re like, oh, I’m glad you did that. You’re like, yeah, I know

Sam Demma (05:52):
And you all along

Becky Stewart (05:54):
So it was, it was definitely tough. And I came from a household where neither of my parents had graduated college. So they, I think they were just happy that I was going to college at, you know, they came to that realization. But yeah, it was definitely, definitely not easy. But when you know that like you were made to do something that this is your passion, then you have to follow it. But at the beginning I was a performance major for the first years of college. Like the, the dream goal for me was to play in a studio orchestra and a studio band to be hired, to play for movies and to do soundtracks. And,uthe farther I got in my college career, I, I was playing in all kinds of ensembles, all kinds of bands and having the best time, our major in the marching band and,uhad some conducting experience.

Becky Stewart (06:40):
And I ended up with a couple of injuries , which I think is go, is just like your story. I think, from what I saw and I, cause being a performance major requires so much practice time. And,uwhile like my mind was willing and able my body really wasn’t and I didn’t want to, you know, facing like, you know, perspective surgeries in the future and all these. And I was like, Ugh, I don’t think I wanna deal with that. Like so early in life. Yeah. Uso I was, you know, approached by some of my mentors, my junior year of college. And I mean, not, not because the injuries or whatever, but, you know,uI was like, I, I was going for, I was like, I’ll still do it. I’ll still do it. And then they were like, you know, we really think you should look into education. And I was like, oh, okay. You know, I, that, as a, as a second major, there aren’t very many, like many more units to take on top of music performance to get into music education. So I was like, okay, you know, graduate with two degrees. That sounds great. But it ended up being a really, really great move for me. And I wanna have changed it for the world.

Sam Demma (07:40):
That’s so amazing. Music fascinates me because it’s like all in your head, it’s like, you, you, you envision something and then you bring it to life. And it’s, it’s something to start as just an idea. Now it’s a thing that people can relate to and enjoy hearing and listening to. And I’m just really fascinated by aspir artists. I don’t care if you paint or write or sing or make music. It’s like, it’s such an inspiring field to watch someone pursue. And I’m sure you get so inspired by seeing kids passionate about it as well. Like what is, what is, tell me more about the experience of being in the classroom teaching band to grade sevens and eights and why you wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Becky Stewart (08:20):
It’s and it’s so cool. Cuz we just had our first concert last night after two years away so it was crazy. Cause our last concert was December of 2019. So last night we, we had our first show, which was the such a cool experience. Uso the kids that performed, they all learned their instrument over distance learning, which wow. Had its own challenges. You know, I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t, I, I think the hardest part about teaching online was like, here’s your, here’s how we’re putting our mouthpiece together. Here’s how we’re putting our read on. And it’s like, cuz usually I would be able to make small adjustments for them cuz it’s so hard even when you’re still developing those fine motor skills and you cuz it has to go a very certain way for it to be successful. And I wasn’t able to do that at all.

Becky Stewart (09:06):
Yeah. And you know, and then the cameras were all off and I’m like, I don’t, I don’t know what your arm looks like, but it sounds okay. Like I can kind of like hear what you’re doing and know what adjustments you need to make. So it was like a really big test in my ear, but it was amazing last night seeing the kids cuz before that you know, you get kids like, oh I don’t, I’m not sure if band was for me and I don’t know. And I’m like, okay, you, you haven’t even had a concert yet. Like you scratched the surface of what band is like we’ve gone through these first sounds together, which is my favorite thing. I love seeing their faces light up when they’re successful at something, the whole class is clapping for them. I’m screaming their name.

Becky Stewart (09:40):
Like we’re having a good time and yeah. Then just cheering each other on and, and bonding together as an ensemble. And as a class is just the coolest thing to see. They’re truly a family unit like a month into school, like they’re, they’re already bonded. And last night we, like I said, we finally got our concert and the band kids got to really see what being in band is all about. Like they were all so nervous before the show and and then they, they thought they were gonna die. And they’re like, what if I faint? What if I fall over? You’ll be, it’ll be okay. And then they, you know, they, that common experience of like being so nervous, but really, really preparing for that moment and then performing and then everybody clapping for you at the end is so cute. The kids are high fiving each other and looking at like, we did it. So those, those moments like that are really what really, what makes it so special.

Sam Demma (10:30):
I love that. I think the journey of seeing a kid progress from a nervous and uncomfortable situation into a space of confidence and self belief is what fuels every teacher, whether you’re teaching music, whether you’re teaching math, it doesn’t matter what the subject is. It’s like that journey from not knowing to knowing is just so cool to watch. That’s so amazing to hear. And did you always, when, when you started teaching, did you always teach band to great sevens and eighth? Or did you start at a different grade or has this always been where you’ve been so far?

Becky Stewart (11:01):
It’s so funny because when I like, cuz I, I, like I said, I didn’t, I, the education field was not like in the cards for me, I thought at the beginning. And then when I got my student teaching assignment, I was like, all right, you know, everybody’s in college coming off this hot high school program, like I’m gonna go to high school, we’re gonna have three jazz bands and we’re gonna have the best marching band ever and blah, blah. And so when you get your student teaching assignment, everybody’s like crossing their fingers and toes for like the big high schools that are around and like, all right, I’m ready for it. And I got a middle school placement and I was like, are you kidding me? I was, I was like, I was mad. I was like, I was like, I want middle school.

Becky Stewart (11:39):
What the heck? This is dumb. Cause I, I did not have a good, like a great middle school experience. Like my, our band was like I said, private school, super bare bones. Like non-competitive like, yeah, one period of band a day, like it was super small. And so I was like, like, this is dumb. So, and then come to find out where, you know, it’s just, I got place, this amazing middle school program totally fell in love with the age group. I fell in love with teaching them right from the beginning. Mm. I thought that was so cool where you can teach them exactly the way that you want them to be taught. Whereas in high school, you know, you have kids coming from all over of different ability levels. And I feel like that that level of that achievement gap just grows as soon as you get to high school. But it’s great having them for those two years saying, okay, I know I started you I know why you’re having these issues and how to fix it. And then we can, you know, along our two year journey, but,uyeah, it’s always been seventh and eighth grade. I got,umy current position I interviewed for it. Ubefore I graduated from the credential program. So the credential program, I did middle school and as my student teaching and then I went right into the middle school position right after that. And it’s been awesome.

Sam Demma (12:50):
Nice. That’s awesome. And let’s go back to the time in your life where you felt as a student going out on stage and performing your first time. Not actually in the musical sense, like metaphorically, that feeling of not knowing how something’s gonna go. I think every teacher went through that experience when COVID initially hit. And it sounds like you did too with being a music teacher virtually which,

Becky Stewart (13:14):
Oh yeah. Everybody kept asking me, how are you gonna do it? I’m like, I dunno, but we’re figuring it out as we go.

Sam Demma (13:20):
So how did that experience go? And like, how did you overcome that difficult situation and continue teaching and figure it out along the way?

Becky Stewart (13:28):
Oh yeah, it was crazy because I was used to seeing, seeing, actually seeing my, of kids in front of me every, every day. Cuz that that’s how our schedule is. I get to see them for, for 43, 48 minutes every day. And uthey’re like, okay, it’s gonna be distance. Like, okay, that’s, that’s hard, but you know, we’ll, we can do it, you know, we’ll, we’ll do our best. And I’m like, okay. And then,uMondays, we are only gonna meet with one class for 30 minutes and then it’s all meetings all. Okay. So now I see them four days a week, right? Nope. Now I got two days where you see them for an hour each day and I’m like, oh my gosh. I’m like, that’s, that’s like two days regularly. That’s crazy. So if a kid missed like one day of class, I don’t see them.

Becky Stewart (14:08):
So if they miss like a Wednesday, I don’t see them until the next Monday. Mm. It was crazy. So I did a lot of like being really purposeful about what exactly we were going over that day. So we really slowed everything down. And I tried to have as many cameras on as possible where it really wasn’t very many, but we worked a lot with Flipgrid like where kids recorded their own video and then posted on a page where everybody could see each other video. And I was like, oh, that’ll be fun. And they’re like, Nope, hate this. I don’t want everybody to see it. And I was like, okay, I will make it. So it’s only me. That’s use it. That’s fine. And then, you know, that went well for a little while and giving them feedback because I didn’t wanna make them play in the zoom.

Becky Stewart (14:51):
And then I realized the parents didn’t want, didn’t sign up to have an instrument in their home. Playing like at 8:00 AM twice a week. Like like, I’ve got a meeting with this trumped blaring behind me trying to learn how to play. And I was like, I know, like I know like it’s fine. Uho dealing with that too, cause not everybody could play their instrument at 8:00 AM. Okay. Just get your mouth piece out. And uhust buzz while you’re doing the valve combinations. Umo a lot of videos with that feedback, I, hodified like my band karate system to, so the kids could have a, an end goal at the end that they could see and have like different levels to achieve. And, me incorporated a lot of fee cuz I wasn’t sure when we were coming back, like there were some spots like maybe we’ll come back in November.

Becky Stewart (15:36):
Nope. Maybe we’ll come back in December. Nope. So we really got purposeful about what exactly the kids were doing. I incorporate a lot of different softwares, like smart music to assess the kids so they could record at home, use Flipgrid a lot. We got, like I said, we got to incorporate a lot of theory that we wouldn’t normally do in the classroom. We got to incorporate a lot of music history, which I really loved. And we got to collaborate with the history department with what they were doing. Like they were working on like seventh grade history does world history. So they’re working on the medieval times and the prehistoric era while we’re learning about the music from the Renaissance and the medieval times and the prehistoric and it was, it was just really cool being able to do those cross-curricular things.

Becky Stewart (16:15):
But I’ve made our program so performance heavy, like we just got our shirts and I do tour dates on the back and the whole back of the shirt is all the concerts for the year. So it is it’s amazing full. So it was really odd coming to terms with like that’s the whole identity of our program is being so performance based and like I can have zero performances this year. So it was, it was interesting take completely taking away the performance expectation and making sure that every kid was able to like do exercise number one. Okay. You’re good. Do exercise number five without like, okay, in a month we have a concert and you gotta go. But even so my, my students become performers and it’s, it was kind of weird not having that last year, but but I think they, they all got better as the year went on. They all stuck. Most of them stuck with their instrument, which was really what we were going for. And as long as they had fun last year, it was, that was, that was the main goal. Like as long as I still like band at the end, then we’re good.

Sam Demma (17:13):
That’s awesome. And I’m sure that, you know, there are some kids that realize band’s not for me. And there’s some kids that realize this is fun. I’m gonna try it again. And there’s a certain select few that are probably like, this is my life. Like they fall in love with it. Right. Yeah. Like, and you’re one of those kids when you were in school. But tell me a story of a student who maybe in grade seven to be beginning of the year, you know, was nervous, shy. And by the time they left to school in grade eight, we’re just like totally different human being. And like, you know, sometimes educators forget their purpose of their work and it’s to, you know, put belief in kids. And then sometimes you don’t hear about the impact your work has until like 10 years down the road when the kid is like in their mid thirties and has a family or something. Oh, for sure. But uyeah. Tell me like about a student like that who..

Becky Stewart (18:01):
Oh Yeah. One of my, one of my favorite kids is in the high school band right now, I saw him perform last night. He was like in this, in this group that kind of moved along together. And my school in particular has a lot of really rough families. They have great, great, great families. But there are some, like, it’s a very high socioeconomic scale. Like it’s 95% free, reduced lunch, 95, like lots of family below the property rate. I’ve had students where at least one parent isn’t prison it’s, you know, very bleak outlook on the future. So when they come to me, music and band sometimes does not seem like a priority at all. So this one student in particular, every single day and he, he sat front, playing clarinet, sat in front every single day. He’d look me dead in the eyes and be like, I hate band I’m quitting.

Becky Stewart (18:56):
And I was like, Nope, like I believe in you please say you’re doing so well. Cause I could tell he was, he was a great player. Like, no you’re doing great. And you know, when I would compliment him, he would just kind of look and be like, yeah, whatever. And every single day I hate band I’m changing electives. I hate band I’m changing electives. And I was like, oh my God. You know, at the end you’re just like, fine. Like if this isn’t for you, like whatever. But he had his first concert and I knew this is always like the biggest moment of buyin for them is because, like I said, they have this, this joint experience together where, where they’re all nervous and they all perform and they realize everybody’s doing great. And sometimes this is the first time their parents are, have come to watch them or tell them good job or say that I’m proud of you, which is really, really cool.

Becky Stewart (19:35):
And so after this performance, we always do our little reflection and he, he was like a completely different person afterwards. And he, you know, always brought his in home cause I made him. But after that was, you know, totally by choice. And uthe end of his seventh grade year, he’s just P playing and playing and working through the book and doing so well and excelling above everybody just because he is, he’s working so hard. And then the next,uhis eighth grade year,uhe ended up getting into honor band, which was amazing. So we went to the section honor band and he did fantastic on clarinet and he’s playing this music. That’s like high school music for, for junior high. And he’s,uright now auditioning for,uthe Western international band conference honor band as a sophomore in high school. And he’s yeah, he’s just absolutely killing it. He got the director’s award from me with the rest of his clarinet section as an eighth grader. Yeah. He was in two honor bands that year as an eighth grader, actually he was in the district honor band and yeah, so that was, that was very, very cool to see. He’s, he’s one of my, my favorite stories cuz he started off as definitely like, you know, the thorns on the rose and then, and then completely bloomed afterwards.

Sam Demma (20:41):
Sometimes those things that seem like an annoyance, like end up being a kid’s greatest strength, you know, maybe, maybe his stubbornness is what made him. So, you know, committed to playing the clarinet afterwards, you know, it’s true. True. Oh, that’s such a cool story. And if you could like transport back in time and speak to younger Becky, when you in your first year of teaching, like knowing what you know now what advice would you give younger self?

Becky Stewart (21:06):
Oh, oh gosh. I would say it’s going to be great because you are involved in it. Mm. Like to like know like no self doubt cuz like I, like, I feel like I pretty high self-confidence but like just, just not, not doubting. You’ll be like, what you’re doing is great. Keep going. What you’re doing is great. Keep going. Like it will be great because, because it’s you mm

Sam Demma (21:36):
That’s a really good piece of advice for everyone. So thanks for sharing but uhhank you so much again for coming on the show today and just sharing some of your stories. Umf someone’s listening and it’s been inspired by it or maybe teaches me music in their school and are, hnterested in hearing more about how you did it virtually, if they’re still teaching virtually or just curious to hear more about your program, what would be the best way for them to reach out or just get in touch?

Becky Stewart (22:01):
My email for sure. I’m also on Instagram. Our school has our Yuba gardens music, Instagram @Yubagardensmusic. And then I have my personal Instagram as well. I don’t know if it’s okay to say it or if it’ll be linked on the podcast. My email is rstewart@mjusd.com. So it’s my real name is Rebecca, but nobody calls me Rebecca.

Sam Demma (22:30):
Nice. Love it. Becky, thank you so much for coming on the show here today.

Becky Stewart (22:35):
Thank you for having me!

Sam Demma (22:36):
Yeah, this is awesome. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon. Awesome.

Becky Stewart (22:40):
Thank you so much.

Sam Demma (22:41):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the high performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please is consider leaving a rating in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.