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Preparing for Adult Life

In light of the big and exciting new changes approaching quickly in my life, I can’t help but reflect on the decisions I’ve made to get to where I am. Not only has DePaul prepared me academically for my next steps, but has also encouraged me to take ownership over my life – by renting an apartment, engaging in my community and working in the city I feel more prepared for post-grad life than I ever though I would! Here are a few things I’m SO glad I did during my time at DePaul, which I may not have done otherwise at another university.

       1.     Opened up a credit card

It seems terrifying, but opening up a credit card was one of the best decisions I made during college. Building credit is really important when you’re looking for an apartment, a car and sometimes even a job! I was able to nail down my first post-college apartment without help from my parents because of my good credit and references. Discover is great for a student card!

 2.     Lived off campus

Living in my own apartment during college taught me the importance of knowing how to cook, clean and get along with people in small places. I learned how to grocery shop on a budget, compare internet providers and slowly acquired furniture to take to my next home.

 3.     Found a church

I have never been a very religious person, but one of my first missions when I moved to Chicago was to find a church community. By becoming a member at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, I made some of my closest friends, networked with professionals in the area and built relationships with people I can rely on. I had a supportive environment to escape to when school was getting me down – I will miss St. Paul’s when I move this June!

 4.     Worked A LOT of different jobs
During the last four years I worked at Chicago’s Skydeck, a small frozen yogurt shop, a cupcake bakery, in the DePaul music admissions office, as a Chicago Quarter Mentor, as a blogger and as a babysitter – yikes! Having all these jobs taught me a lot about working with the public, and it’s nice to know that if teaching doesn’t work out (unlikely), I’ve got a resume full of other things I’m good at!

Not only has DePaul given me the resources to be a phenomenal teacher, but has also provided me with the skills necessary to transition smoothly into adult life. (I’m realizing this now more than ever before!) I’ve been very fortunate to learn and grow in this amazing city – I know I’ll be back sooner or later! 


Performing with the Chicago Symphonic Winds

I think I’ve most definitely said this before, but the opportunities for performing in the city of Chicago are endless. Even when you aren’t looking, they get dropped in your lap!

I’ve been pretty busy over the last few weeks, but when I got an email inviting me to perform with the Chicago Symphonic Winds I could not say no. I was recommended by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Erica Neidlinger, because she is the guest conductor for our upcoming concert. Aside from getting to play great music with equally great musicians, Dr. Neidlinger is my idol and I love watching her rehearse and conduct. We’ve been doing an independent study together this quarter where I have been analyzing wind band repertoire, working on conducting and helping out with the wind symphony rehearsals. It’s really cool to be recommended for this kind of opportunity as a music education major – it feels great to be respected as a musician even though my main focus is teaching.

 The Chicago Symphonic Winds is a non-profit organization of instrumentalists who want to keep wind literature (aka band music) alive. Not only do they perform several concerts a year, but also participate in educational outreach to bring music to local schools. You can read more about their mission here.

We had our first rehearsal last week and I was blown away by the musicianship of the other players. Mostly DePaul and Northwestern alumni, the musicians volunteer their time and talents to the ensemble. It was also really neat to be playing with people who I once played with at DePaul – it’s comforting to know that they are sticking with their passion and continuing to grow as professionals.

DePaul music students perform all over the city and country. Several of my classmates play with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony! Others have started their own ensembles and performed in master classes with people like Chris Martin (trumpet), Frank Forst (bassoon) and other successful musicians. My best friend Kelsey is attending both the National Orchestral Institute in Maryland and the Northwestern Summer Violin Institute over the summer, and many of our peers are headed off to other summer festivals, too!

The program for this concert is “Suite Francaise” by Darius Milhaud, “Variants on a Medieval Tune" by Dello Joio and “Sinfonietta for Concert Band​” by Ingolf Dahl. If you don’t know any of these pieces, just trust me when I tell you this is a great concert!


Status: Officially Employed!

With less than two months of school left, preparing for life post-DePaul is scary, exciting and stressful all at the same time! Though my main focus should be on finishing my classes, maintaining my GPA and enjoying my time in the city, I can’t help but worry about what is happening next – where will I work? Where will I live? What will happen to my relationships, and how will I go about building new ones? I feel like I’ve had job applications on my mind more than anything else – until this past week when my post-grad status shifted from unknown to employed!

After only filling out a few job applications, I’ve officially been hired by a school district to teach 5th-12th grade band. For this particular school, I had a FaceTime interview due to distance after submitting my application materials through email. The superintendent and I had a great conversation about the direction of their band program and the ways in which I could help provide a challenging and enjoyable learning environment for their students. Within three hours I had received the job offer! Taking the advice of my advisor, I made the three hour trip to the school to make sure it would be a good fit before making any kind of decision. Once I had seen the school, spoken with both principals and discussed further job requirements, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the job for me. I signed my contract and am now eagerly waiting to start my first job as a real-life teacher this August!

This new job will pose a lot of new challenges for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I will be responsible for teaching 5th-12th grade band (probably about 65-70 students), with the expectation that I will begin a marching band, prepare students for ILMEA auditions and perform several times a year. The school is located in rural Illinois, just about 3 hours outside of Chicago – certainly a drastic shift from the environment I’ve been living in these past four years! Aside from teaching and having ownership over my band program, I’m really looking forward to fresh vegetables from local farms, starry night skies and forming new relationships with my new co-workers and neighbors. I might even think about getting a pet to keep me company!

It is pretty uncommon for teachers, especially fresh-out-of-college teachers, to be hired this early before the start of the next school year. I consider myself extremely lucky to already have a plan in place! Being a DePaul student has prepared me so well – I know that all of my graduating colleagues will be successful because of the education we have received here, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for them.

For now, I’ll be doing my best to stay focused and get my physics homework in on time. Only 6 more weeks until graduation and the start of the next chapter of my life!


Coping With College

When I finished student teaching in the fall, I thought my last two quarters at DePaul would be a breeze. Thinking that taking three classes, instead of six or seven as in previous years, would be a piece of cake, I picked up extra shifts at my work, agreed to more babysitting gigs and committed myself to maintaining a strong GPA through the end of this year. Now almost done with the quarter, I’m realizing that I was very wrong! Though I am still managing to get all my work done, it has been a real challenge to keep up with my various jobs (four, to be exact!) and still make time to relax and see my friends. I think it’s pretty common for college students to overwork themselves, which is why I want to share a few coping skills that have been working for me in dealing with the stress of college.

The first and most important thing I’ve been doing to keep myself afloat is getting enough sleep at night. I have heard horror stories of my peers who have procrastinated so much that giving up a night of sleep is their only way to get work done. THIS IS BAD. Even if I haven’t finished my work for the day, I always make a point to get at least seven hours of sleep at night and wake up earlier if necessary.

Exercising has also been a saving grace for me these last few weeks.  Regardless of how much work I have to do, I try my hardest to get to the Ray Meyer Fitness Center​ at DePaul at least three times a week. Even if I only have time for a quick run or weight lifting session, getting my body moving makes me feel empowered and motivated to get things done.

Though it may not be the healthiest coping mechanism, food helps me get through all of life’s challenges. Often times I’ll set a goal – such as, get all of my homework due Monday done by Friday afternoon – and if I do it, I get a pizza. Who wouldn’t do homework in exchange for pizza? There is nothing more satisfying than a big slice of pepperoni pineapple from Renaldi’s​ or a massive plate of beef Pad Thai from Noodles in the Pot​ after a long week of online quizzes, discussion posts and readings. Side note: these foods are more satisfying if I eat well during the week - something I have been striving to do since the beginning of the New Year!! The addition of a Whole Foods​ with a gigantic salad bar on DePaul’s campus has been a dream-come-true for my waist line…

Lastly, my friends are crucial in minimizing the stress of school. Doing homework with my best friend Kelsey has been a major factor in my ability to keep up with my classes. Even though our assignments are always drastically different, it’s still fun to celebrate the completion of a task with a high-five or another cup of coffee. (Coffee and College go hand-in-hand for me. Addicted? Maybe. Necessary? Yes.)

One of the major lessons that I have learned this year is that my education needs to come first. College is becoming more and more expensive each year, and though DePaul offers great scholarships​, student loans can still be scary! Have bills to pay or enjoy having money for meals, concerts and experiences? Me too! Working is important for so many college students – myself included – but never forget that college is for learning first. Enjoy your time as a student; wherever you end up, never let work negatively interfere with your success in college.​


Student Teaching - Half Way Done!

I recently hit the half-way point in my student teaching! Just to provide you with a little more information, music education students teach for 16 weeks – which is divided into two 8-week long sessions. For all other education majors, student teaching only lasts 10 weeks (which is exactly one quarter at DePaul). The reason why music students have longer teaching experiences is because our certification is grades K-12, while others are certified to teach specific age groups. I began teaching 4th-8th grade band August, and although I had a great experience, I’m excited to be heading to a high school to complete my next 8 weeks of teaching.​

Also this past week, I submitted my edTPA portfolio to the state of Illinois.  edTPA​ is a newly mandated teacher assessment tool that is now required for all teacher candidates who are applying for a teaching license in Illinois (there are quite a few other states doing this, too!). If you might be interested in becoming a teacher, edTPA will become a very familiar term to you! The portfolio is made up of three major “tasks” that prompt the teacher candidate to explain their processes of planning lessons, teaching the lessons and assessing the students. For example, my portfolio was based on an 8th grade saxophone sectional, where I planned all the lessons, taught all the lessons and then assessed the students on the material we covered. Though the process of edTPA can seem daunting, its purpose is to help us plan, teach and assess with greater attention to details so we can be the best teachers possible! The DePaul College of Education​ has done a great job providing students with the tools and resources we need to pass the edTPA. I should know what my score is in the next two weeks, and as long as I score a 35 out of 75 points, I will be applying to be a real-life teacher in no time!​

In the past 8 weeks, I have learned the following things about middle school students:

- Most of them have at least one shoe lace untied, and they like it that way.

- They talk using their "outdoor" voice 95% of the time.

- They ask questions that they already know the answer to, such as, “Do I have band today?” when they have band every day of the week every week.

- They are insanely creative, and need more opportunities to express themselves at school.

In the program I was teaching, all students used Noteflight at least three days a week. Noteflight is a web-based composing program that offers school memberships that allow students to create their own work, review the work of others and submit assignments to the teacher. Students in my classes were composing melodies and pieces that even I would struggle to write – and I’ve studied music theory! I loved seeing the students fully engaged in writing their own music, and their creativity was truly inspiring.

Though I know high school will be different in many ways, (they most likely won’t give me as many hugs on my last day), I’m looking forward to the new challenges I will face. 

If you want a true glimpse into the kinds of things middle school band students say, watch the video below. It is the most accurate I’ve ever seen and describes my experience perfectly.​

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