Teacher Tuesday: LASD music teacher Carleen Shinn.

November 10, 2020

Teacher Tuesday: LASD music teacher Carleen Shinn.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

LUDINGTON – Never hearing of Ludington before accepting her job, Ludington Area Schools music teacher Carleen Shinn was excited for a new adventure after graduating from college.

“I have been teaching for 27 years in Ludington,” she said. “I didn’t even know where Ludington was on the map until I received the music education job in 1993. I think I have taught at every elementary school that has existed since I moved here (with the exception of Foster Elementary), Summit, South Hamlin, Lakeview, Franklin, Ludington Area Catholic, and Pere Marquette. The grade levels I have taught include kindergarten through sixth grade.”

Shinn said she grew up in a musical family and that helped her make a decision to pursue music education.

“I come from a small town called Pigeon, in the thumb of Michigan,’ she said. “I grew up on a pig farm with my parents, brother and sister, and 200 pigs. My high school was a combination of three town populations combined into one unit:  Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker High School. My graduating class was 121, just a bit smaller than Ludington. I continued my education by attending Grand Valley State University for two years, and then transferred to Western Michigan University to finish up my bachelor’s of music education. I always knew I wanted to do something with my musical gift, but I wasn’t sure what exactly. I had explored the idea of music therapy as I feel there is a true healing power in music. I realized through my college years however, that there was more of a market for school teachers and therefore, I pursued my elementary education/music degree.”

Playing multiple instruments growing up, Shinn’s love for music stemmed from a young age within her church and at school.

“I chose to pursue music education because I grew up in a musical family,” she said. “Music was present within my school participation, private flute and piano lessons, and church involvement. It brought me joy, an outlet for relieving stress, and something that I could share with others. I was involved with a Christian singing group throughout high school. We traveled to local churches on Sundays and performed for the congregations. I spent two weeks at a flute workshop at Interlochen Arts Academy and I also feel very blessed to have traveled to China, Hong Kong, and Hawaii as a member of the Michigan Lions All-State Band under the direction of Walter Cole.”

With a great love for music, Shinn said she knows the importance of music education in every child’s life, even if they don’t decide to pursue it outside of the classroom and she has been very fortunate to work for a district that also understands this concept.

“I have been very fortunate to work in the Ludington Area School District all these years,” she said. “I have never felt that my job security was ‘threatened’ because Ludington is a community that supports the arts programs that Ludington Area Schools offers. I feel fortunate to be able to take part in musical experiences within school and the community of Ludington. It is very exciting to see the new elementary taking shape and I am looking forward to continuing educating children in the new facility.”

Even though music can be an exciting and less-stressful classroom environment, Shinn said there are things that still can be changed throughout the educational system to make all students feel more comfortable while at school.

“If I could change something about teaching in today’s society, it would be to reduce the anxieties of teachers, students, and families,” she said. “I feel fortunate to have had a wonderful educational experience as a young kid and harbor some very special memories of elementary school; one of them being music class. Not only did I gain the knowledge needed to be successful, but ‘social’ and ‘fun’ is how I would describe elementary school. Based on my own educational experience as a student, I gained more knowledge and insight into what makes an effective teacher. Expectations of teaching and learning have become more rigorous in today’s society, and many students and teachers experience stress and anxiety. It seems there is hardly enough time in a school day to accomplish the targeted goals.”

With the end of last school year and the beginning of this school year being so unpredictable due to COVID-19, Shinn has had to try new ways to keep her students involved in their musical education while study at home or in a completely different looking school setting.

“This has been a very challenging year for everyone, including educators,” she said. “I have learned more about integrating technology into teaching and learning than I ever have in my 27 years in the field. For my particular position, it is very challenging to provide virtual music lessons because the students I see face to face are used to having their hands-on instruments, bodies engaged in movement activities, and listening to recordings to analyze and reinforce skills. Music is a full body experience. My music students are up and moving with the steady beat, creating songs, rhymes and accompaniments in groups, and performing on stage with other students in front of an audience of up to 500 people. I long for those days once again, as I see music as a social activity where we can learn so much from one another during our ‘live’ moments together.”

Still in love with her career and working with her students, Shinn hopes to continue to education more and more children through her love of music.

“I shall retire from education someday, but for now I continue to put my heart and soul into teaching music,’ she said. “I hope that by working with young people, I can plant some seeds for growing a special feeling of ‘belonging.’ Music has the ability to lead students toward life-long passions and unite us as a group, class, school, community or society.”

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