2018 TN ASTA Teacher of the Year: Genevieve Simons

FOCUS INTERVIEW, by Elizabeth Voltz, EdD

Genevieve Simons retired from teaching strings in Metro Nashville, Public Schools after thirty years of service.  In her early days, she traveled between five different elementary schools, sometimes in the same day!  Genevieve loves teaching beginning fifth graders as they are so excited and enthusiastic.  She also values her ASTA membership and the value of networking with likeminded professionals from across our nation!

When asked about the highlights of her career, the first thing that came to mind was teaching at JT Moore Middle School in the ‘80s.  Ms Simons had a great working relationship with her colleague, Charles Marston, band director.  She valued their mutual respect, and genuine interest in prioritizing student needs over competitiveness between band and strings, sometimes even meeting daily to plan lessons.  Together, they formed what was said to have been the only middle school orchestra in the state at that time. They recruited about 160 members and had an active parent group which supported them very well financially. Genevieve said she learned a lot from co-teaching with Mr. Marston, including how to organize rehearsals leading up to a performance.  Their students learned to respect each other as well.

Other highlights were of unexpected successes, such as the 5th grade boy who was constantly in and out of trouble, but left class one day happily humming the bass line to a song they were learning.  Another was catching up with an old student, now an adult, who had put down their instrument for years and was now picking it up and playing again. Or, a previous student who, years later, recounted exactly what she had said to them when it really mattered.  Genevieve says that one cannot know the impact a teacher may have just by taking the time to listen to a child in need.

During her career, Genevieve’s philosophy of teaching was to try and reach every student.  Her goal was for every child to leave her room happy, feeling success every day.  She felt it important that, to hold their interest, beginning students play a song within the first two weeks of classes.  She suggests naming exercises with fun names so that children think they are playing songs. Have fun. Be creative. 

What advice does Genevieve have for new string teachers?  She says to “find your own magic formula and run with it”.  No two teachers are alike, so watch others and glean from their successes, whether it be chorus, band, or other.  Network.  Ask other string teachers how they solve a problem.   Borrow others’ ideas and practice perfecting your individual style.  Young teachers are working at a fantastic time with so many exciting resources now available!
Genevieve resides in Kingston Springs, TN and continues to teach privately.

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