FAME Teacher Spotlight – Rachel Grimsby
Name: Rachel Grimsby
School District: Fairfax County Public Schools
What grades and specialty areas have you taught in your career so far?
I currently teach Kindergarten through 6th grade general and choral music. In the past I have done Pre-K general music in public schools as well as Infant/Toddler classes in a community education program.
I earned my bachelors from East Carolina University. Upon graduation I spent the next four years working on my Orff-Schulwerk levels. I have levels one, two, three, and Masters. After completing my Schulwerk I began my Master’s degree at The Hartt School, University of Hartford. I graduated in 2010 with my Master’s in Music Education with an emphasis in pedagogy as well as all three Kodaly levels and FAME certifications. In 2013 I apprenticed with Dr. Feierabend at The Hartt School, and became a teacher trainer for Conversational Solfege. In 2014 I apprenticed again with Dr. Feierabend at Southern Methodist University, becoming the 1st FAME Endorsed Teacher Trainer to be certified in both First Steps and Conversational Solfege. I have led sessions and workshops at the local, state, and national levels. I lead several FAME certification courses each year and I am currently interviewing for Ph.D programs, hoping to start in the fall of 2017.
What was your primary instrument in college?
How did you come upon Dr. Feierabend’s materials & philosophy?
My first encounter with Dr. Feierabend was during my first year teaching at VMEA in Norfolk. I was so inspired by his presentation that I skipped out ten minutes early to beat everyone down to the GIA booth, as I knew items would sell out. I purchased his First Steps curriculum book, and level one of Conversational Solfege. I employed bits and pieces of his materials into my teaching over the next three years, and in my fourth year really had a good grasp of the First Steps eight-part process. Conversational Solfege took longer for me to employ, but the 12-step process has been a part of my instruction for the past ten years.
FAME member since:
In 2012 I was one of the founding members of FAME.
Classes/Workshops you’ve attended in First Steps or Conversational Solfege
I have taken/audited First Steps and Conversational Solfege at least three times each, and have attended countless workshops/sessions that Dr. Feierabend has presented.
What do you find to be the most powerful aspect of Dr. Feierabend’s philosophy for your teaching?
The most powerful aspect for me is the independence it gives students. My students are engaged, energized, and having fun “musicing” with their peers. Literacy is learned by doing, and grows naturally and at the students’ pace. It is a beautiful thing to see students’ progress in their skills allowing me to become a “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage”.
How has FS/CS changed your teaching?
It is all about the students. As I said above, I am simply their guide. Music is truly about them and their ability to synchronize with those around them.
How has FS/CS changed your students?
My students love music. They take songs they learn and share them with peers and family. Teachers have shared with me that songs /games learned in class are played on the playground and in their classroom. My older students will come into class and share that they heard patterns in their band or strings music, or music that they listen to on the radio. When students begin to make connections to what they are doing in class to what they are doing musically outside of class that is just powerful.
What would you say to encourage a teacher just starting out with John’s material or a teacher who has used the materials for a while, but may be overwhelmed?
I would say don’t stop! I know it can be overwhelming at first but this curriculum is more than a resource book. The methodology is pure magic. It has made me a better teacher. I have learned, through this methodology, to listen more to my students to guide their lessons based off of their responses. Using this method and seeing the growth of my students makes it worthwhile. I can be in the grumpiest of moods (and be honest, we have all been there) but the moment I sit down with my students and they begin to play a singing game for step one of a unit, or one of my littles finally finds their head voice, or children who cannot get along at school take hands and folk dance in my room, that grumpiness goes away and I am left with nothing but joy in the knowledge that I am giving my students quality, child-centric instruction.
If you are struggling I say, reach out! This community of teachers is unlike any I have experienced. Our sole purpose is to build each other up, and support your teaching and the learning that is taking place in your classroom. If you are struggling with something ask a question on the forum, post a question on the fundamentals page. If you are close to a teacher trainer, or more experienced teacher ask to observe them. Go to your local FAME chapter meetings. Be proactive, and never be afraid to ask a question. We all learn from each other.