These Teachers Will Inspire You

Six local educators share their thoughts on risk-taking, equality, life after military service and what they've learned from your kids.

Photo by Skip Brown

Dan Paris

History, creative writing and high school songwriting

H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, Arlington

Years teaching: 8

● “I was a Marine for 20 years. I always knew teaching was going to be next.”

● “The camaraderie with your fellow teachers is very similar to camaraderie with your fellow Marines. You have that shared experience.”

● “We have to show students we’re willing to make mistakes and take risks. Songwriting isn’t a contest, but I think many songwriters compare their own work against that of their peers, or their heroes. Kids sometimes hesitate to share their songs. So I share my songs with them and ask for their feedback.”

● “I love watching students do something they didn’t think they could do, or watching them do something better than they thought they could.”

● “The music unlocks something in them. It’s a privilege to enable that. When a student hits that note or writes a song that makes you tear up.”

● “It’s less about the academics and more about the emotional support we give them to help them on the path to becoming an adult.”

● “In the Marines you’re always carrying a notebook with you. I carried one in Iraq, in Afghanistan—everywhere. Written in the front was: ‘Job: Make sure the Humvees are ready to hit the road at 0600 tomorrow morning.’ In the back were my songs, my poems, my band name ideas. When front and back met it was time to get a new notebook.”

● “We have ukulele Friday. I teach them to play C, G and F. It doesn’t matter how tiny your hands are. Anyone can play ukulele.”

● “I thought: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could meet with musicians and bands that came through D.C.? I love the Indigo Girls and they were coming to the Birchmere. I wrote an email to their manager and 24 hours later they said ‘Yes, we’d love to meet with you [and your students].’ We went to the show.”

● “Last year I took seven of our student songwriters to Nashville. We went to a professional studio and everyone got to record a song there.”

● “My students remind me how exciting life can be. I’m reminded to live in the moment.”

–Madelyn Rosenberg

Categories: Education
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