Teaching is a very demanding job, especially during these past few years. Hannah Hermanson, UWEC ‘19, took it all in stride with determination, understanding, and a kind heart. This educator went above and beyond to make sure her students had an appropriate music education as well as helping them find a way to express and discuss difficult topics in a safe environment. Graciously, she has shared not only some great teaching advice for students, but also life advice for all.
Hermanson has been teaching elementary music for the three years to kindergarten through fifth grade. When she first began teaching at her school, she had access to very few instruments, and most were damaged and in need of repair. Getting to work right away, Hermanson and her fellow staff members wrote grants to purchase the proper instruments needed for their music program. She even recruited her father to start repairing the damaged xylophones. Within the next couple months, the grants had begun to pay off: she was awarded a DonorsChoose campaign for glockenspiels; a grant for animal puppets for kindergarten and first grade students to sing to in Arioso Land; and grants for ukuleles, xylophones, drum sets, guitars, drum pads, and, most recently, steel pans.
Even during the pandemic, Hermanson found a way to get instruments to her 450 students. Hermanson went to hundreds of stores asking for bucket donations from bakeries, Coburns, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and Menards to create a sort of DIY instrument experience for her students. And those rounds were a success!
The pandemic was not the only thing that has been a challenge for her students. Hermanson’s community was hit hard by the murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. She wanted something to help her students have an outlet through music. “In response to the hurt my community has and still is going through, teaching students how to solely read notes and rhythms in western music notation does not feel appropriate. I decided this year to start my master’s degree in music education at the U of M Twin Cities so that I could create a curriculum responsive to my students and everything we have been through. Currently I am in the works of creating a curriculum that integrates social justice with music for my third through fifth graders where we explore big topics like Identity, Community, Activism, Freedom through music.”
When asked what advice she has for current students, she recommended “going above and beyond,” in everything you do, including in college. She recommends taking every opportunity available to you, whether that be adding a certificate or minor to your degree, volunteering, or studying abroad. That little extra activity that you accomplish really makes a resume stand out. For Hermanson, she took an adaptive music certificate which she completed by working at a juvenile detention center. She says, “If you have a bank of unique opportunities that you can offer when applying for jobs, I think that is what will make you stand out.”
Volunteering was also something that Hermanson used to spruce up her resume. For three years, she volunteered as a reading buddy for elementary students. “I learned how to read expressively to students which has helped me tremendously in keeping a class of 30 students engaged. I would recommend taking any opportunity you can with the age level of students you will one day be working with to build teaching experience.”
Another experience that Hermanson did that helped her develop her teaching abilities was directing the Blugold Athletic Band for 2 years. During that time, her confidence in conducting and leading a large ensemble grew. It even inspired her to create her own elementary band for her 5th grade students. Since then, she has begun working with the school to figure out a way to work the band into the school’s schedule.
Hermanson wanted to leave us with a couple more pieces of advice:
- Take any type of leadership role, so you gain experience leading a team and taking on multiple responsibilities.
- Give yourself and students grace
- Keep learning and growing as a human being
- Follow your heart