FAME Teacher Spotlight – Leslie Weaver
Name: Leslie Weaver
School District: Hamburg Area School District
Country (if outside the US):
- Grades Taught & Specialty Area (previously and currently):
- K-5 General Music
- 4-5 Chorus
- 7thGrade General Music
- Elementary Autistic Support Adaptive Music
- Elementary Life Skills Support Adaptive Music
- High School Life Skills Support Adaptive Music
- 3-8 Instrumental Lessons
- Educational History:
- S. Music Education – Lebanon Valley College (2004)
- A. Music Performance – Lebanon Valley College (2004)
- S. Educational Development and Strategies – Wilkes University (2013)
- M. Music Education – Boston University (2016)
- Primary instrument in college:
How you came upon Dr. Feierabend’s materials & philosophy. My parents were both General Music teachers and took Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps in Music and Conversational Solfege classes, then began using both curricula, between 2004 and 2008. After getting the elementary General Music position in the same school district as my father was still teaching, I knew I had to find out more about Dr. Feierabend’s philosophy because my parents both spoke so highly of him and how his materials changed their classrooms for the better.
What do you find to be the most powerful aspect of Dr. Feierabend’s philosophy for your teaching? The most powerful aspect of Dr. Feierabend’s philosophy is how organically the children are able to acquire their musical skills. There is no prescribed timeline for when children should be able to master their singing voices, or the ability to demonstrate a steady beat. The freedom in his philosophy to let every child develop at their own rate is refreshing.
How has FS/CS changed your teaching? FS and CS have given me direction and focus in my teaching. Before taking Dr. Feierabend’s classes, I was teaching to the standards, and to the lessons that were provided in the music series adopted by my school district. I became bored with the provided lessons and frustrated that my students were enjoying music class, but were spending so much time listening to me talk instead of making music in any meaningful ways. We were meandering through units that were focused on teaching a new skill each week, instead of building upon core skills to make any significant progress either vocally or kinesthetically. After taking FS and CS, I realized that children are not meant to master musical skills by specific ages or times.
I had a student who did not find his head voice until he was in 4thGrade, but was able to decode, create, and write all rhythms in CS Units 1 and 2. Before taking FS, I would have discounted this child as tone deaf and beyond any help I could offer. But, because I had learned from Dr. Feierabend that children will develop their musical skills in their own time, I was patient and encouraging of this child even after he completed the primary grades. After he sang in his head voice for the very first time in 4thGrade, he never went back to singing the lower octave again. His ear and vocal mechanism simply needed the extra time to figure out how they should be working.
How has FS/CS changed your students? FS and CS have helped my students become more independent and confident while singing. Before FS/CS, my students refused to sing by themselves and would sing so softly in a group that some of the students were barely audible. Since my students now sing on their own beginning in Kindergarten, (and request to do so!), when they are asked to sing independently in 3rd, 4th, or 5thGrade, they do so with ease because singing alone is simply part of the music class routine.
My students are also significantly stronger in their rhythm skills than before CS. I used to spend time in Chorus teaching parts by rote. In the past five years, all of my 4thGraders have made it through at least Unit 2 in CS. When we are preparing choral pieces in 2/4 or 6/8 now, I simply project the notation on the board and have the students decode their rhythms. The amount of time we save in rehearsals because they are able to decode is priceless!
What would you say to encourage a teacher just starting out with John’s materials? And/or, how would you encourage a teacher who has used the materials for a while, but may be overwhelmed? When starting with First Steps, take advantage of the lessons John has provided in the back of the Green book. For my first two years of teaching FS, I stuck to those lessons, exclusively, so I could master the sequence of the 8-step workout and the progression from simple, to more difficult songs (ie. Echo songs in Kindergarten to Call and Response songs in 1stGrade). Once you feel confident in progressing through the daily workout, sprinkle in some new material each year from his supplemental books. If you choose even one new simple song and one new fingerplay every four weeks, you will have a wider repertoire to choose from for following years. Also, remember that the students only see you once or twice per cycle. Stay faithful to the 4×4 model. Even though you sing the song twenty times per week, they only hear it four times and will still be excited to hear/sing it by the fourth week.
When beginning CS, take it slow. Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to set deadlines for when you want to complete specific steps. Once you figure out how best to teach each of the steps, and how to keep students engaged through each of them, you will be able to progress faster. Also, start with older students who can be more patient while you find your way. There is nobody dictating that your students need to start decoding rhythms on the first day of 2nd Let your students develop at their own rates.
Bio: Leslie began her teaching career in the School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, in 2005. The desire to be closer to family led her to Perry Elementary in the Hamburg Area School District, Shoemakersville, PA, where she was able to teach alongside, and learn from, her father, Marlin Kerchner, a General Music teacher with 32 years of experience. After seeing how Marlin implemented First Steps and Conversational solfege, and how his students were able to sing in tune and decode rhythms with ease, she knew she needed to take the FS and CS certification courses.
While spending summers earning her certifications in FS and CS, Leslie also earned a Masters in Education degree from Wilkes University and a Masters in Music from Boston University. Continuing education is a passion of Leslie’s and she hopes to begin her Kodaly certification courses at West Chester University in the summer of 2018. In the summer of 2017, Leslie completed her apprenticeship with Dr. Feierabend and is now an Endorsed Teacher Trainer in First Steps in Music.
Leslie enjoys reading, researching her family history, studying Spanish, and traveling. She and her husband hope to visit all 59 United States National Parks in their lifetimes. They also love rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. Leslie, her husband, and their dog, currently reside in Allentown, PA.
FAME member since: 2014
Classes/Workshops you’ve attended in First Stepsor Conversational Solfege
First Steps in Music 2010
Conversational Solfege 2011