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Interview With A Mentor

Education Through Music presents the following interview with ETM Music Teacher Mentor Ulises Solano. The primary role of the Music Teacher Mentor is to help develop music teachers to be the best that they can be through designing achievable growth plans to strengthen their teachers’ skills. 

Hi Ulises, where are you from?

I am originally from Costa Rica, but I lived in other cities in the United States before moving to New York City.

How long have you been a mentor?

I was an ETM teacher for eight years and then I started as a mentor in the fall of 2016, so almost two years now.

What is a mentor’s greatest contribution to the teachers you serve?

It really depends on the experience level of the teacher. For the ones who already have a lot of teaching experience, it is acknowledging the things they are doing successfully. A lot of times teachers who have been teaching a long time don’t get the recognition they deserve.  I will sometimes tell one of my teachers that a technique they are using in their classroom would be great for us to showcase at one of our next professional development sessions. When a teacher’s strengths are identified and celebrated, it deepens their connection to their craft.

With younger teachers I tend to focus on what they are doing well and build off of that. I give them the tools they need to take the gifts they already have to the next level.

What is the hardest part of being a mentor?

I would say building a relationship where you are respected as a supervisor, while simultaneously building trust as a friend. You have to get to a point where they trust that you have their best interests at heart.

What is your favorite part of being a mentor?

There are many! My favorite is helping a teacher get to the point where we can talk about music more than classroom management and helping them gain the confidence they need so they can focus on the music.

Why do you choose to do this work with Education Through Music?

Personally, it’s something that has always been present in my life. I started teaching in my own house, my father’s garage, where I taught guitar. By the time I was 17 I was teaching in schools in Costa Rica. It was then that I realized that teaching music is really about teaching a way of life. It instills discipline, listening skills, and problem solving.

When I was a young teacher many people mentored me, so I have always felt that I should pay back the favors given to me. ETM gives me a structured way to do this. It is something I love, and who doesn’t want to work doing something that they love?

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