My Teaching PhilosophyAn Ode to Mr. Wolterstorff of Timothy Christian High School, Elmhurst, IL
My high school choir director unknowingly changed my life. Since the age of 6, I knew that music would play an integral role in my future. What I did not know was the specific career path I would choose…that is until I met Mr. Wolterstorff. He was extremely passionate about music especially vocal music. His passion was contagious causing me to fall in love with the human voice; vocal polyphony in particular. Every class was an adventure. He took us places only passionate, spiritual teachers can take you. I remember, on rare occasion he would get extremely angry with us typical, disruptive teenagers. He threw chairs. He threw his conducting stick. He slammed doors. Oh! It was wonderful! While the other students would snicker at him, laugh or quietly call him names, I empathized with him. Somehow I understood on a deep level that he was being vulnerable with us. He was expressing his innermost feelings through the music. He was offering us a transcendental, “mountain top” experience. When no one else was willing to go with him to “the mountain top” – I was. The human voice and sound was our bond and the key to the door of our souls. I will NEVER forget him.
All of God’s creation is designed with the basic need to connect and communicate. Deep down we yearn to be authentic and vulnerable. Learning, teaching (and vice versa) allow us to do this on a rudimentary level. To teach is “to cause to know something, to make known, to impart knowledge, to guide, to enlighten, and to communicate.” Teaching at its core, when done with the right heart, is vulnerability, communication, expression and relationship – even if it’s for a short while. It is depositing and receiving. Ultimately, teachers leave a legacy – the thumbprint of our soul – on every student we are blessed to encounter.
Teaching is not for the materially motivated. It is not a profession you should default to or “fall back on” unless your desire is to be legendary when you do. Aside from being knowledgeable, a good teacher is prepared to give knowing that they will not receive immediate gratification most of the time. Good teachers allow themselves to be vulnerable knowing that they may never know how their students were positively affected. This is what makes a teacher legendary. Mr. Wolterstorff was and still is legendary. This is the only kind of teacher I want to be.
My teaching style has been described as engaging, adventurous, emotionally charged and at times stimulating to the point of exhaustion! I tend to explain concepts on a very basic level as to eliminate any confusion. In addition to my strong communication and interpersonal skills, patience is another one of my strengths. I will find several ways to teach the same concept until full understanding is reached. My classes are usually full with a waiting list because of my teaching style and ability to interpret and convey difficult material and concepts.
One of my former students shared the following comment with me regarding her initial reaction to my teaching style…
“I thought… I am not going to learn much from this lady…she’s making jokes, she’s laughing, she’s so relaxed … honestly Kym, I was tempted to not take you seriously. However, before I realized it, I was learning more than I could have ever imagined. Kym, you took every one of us on a journey and none of us are the same. Your class has changed my life.” – Kathy Schulte