For the past seven years, Matthew Stensrud has taught general music at Annandale Terrace Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia. Here he has created a spiral curriculum with goals that have expandedas his students have grown with his teaching. Matthew also established numerous opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge: “Because outside student enrichment is often rare, I see it as my duty to provide a comprehensive and well-rounded academic, social, and musical curriculum that gives students the critical and creative thinking tools necessary to become future leaders and I am proud of this contribution I have made to my school community.”
Annandale Terrace is a school that serves a diverse, international population with a high percentage of students that are learning English as their second language. “He took a challenging Title I population of kids and successfully created a positive and safe classroom environment encouraging the use of innovative playing, improvising, singing, and moving,” says colleague Michael Weiner.
One of Matthew’s strategies to create a positive experience for students is the use of an approach called Responsive Classroom. The core belief of Responsive Classroom is that students cannot be academically successful without social and emotional learning. While this technique was initially created for classroom teachers, Matthew has been instrumental in bringing this technique to the music classroom. He has given numerous workshops on the topic of integrating Orff Schulwerk and the Responsive Classroom. Kim Weisheit commented the following about the workshop she attended:
“Our group had a deep artistic sharing experience because of the way the techniques and excellent rapport Matthew had with us that built trust and community and risk-taking between us!”
Matthew has also published resources for music teachers about integrating Responsive Classroom and Orff Schulwerk. Along with an article in the Orff Echo, he was a contributor to the book Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas.
“Outside the classroom, he is committed to serving the community and promote student success – especially for Title I schools – by working with education advocacy groups,” says fellow teacher Essel Linton. Currently, Matthew serves as a commissioner on the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. The commission not only provides grants to local organizations, but it also strives to connect local artists and Alexandria public schools.
Matthew has also served on the communication team for the Education Trust, as an Influence Leader for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and on the Advocacy Leadership Force of the National Association for Music Education, and, additionally, he met with then-Education Secretary John King to discuss music education policy.
“Matthew inspires both students and adults to be their best. He is kind, supportive, and knowledgeable. Matthew’s lessons are well-crafted, purposeful, and meaningful. He’s also an amazing dance choreographer!” – Christine Nguyen, FCPS colleague
“Matthew is a rising star who knows what he wants and goes after it.” – Joyce Stephansky, Orff Schulwerk Level I teacher
“Matthew was first introduced to me as my colleague and mentor at my first teaching job. Not only did he serve as a collaborative part of our fine arts team, but also a role model for me and other teachers at his school. Along with his commitment to his classroom, he spent many extra hours working with me as his mentee and continued to support his colleagues throughout the school as Lead Mentor in years to come. He is truly a teacher and person to aspire to and helped me become the teacher and person I am four years later. – Michael Weiner, former FCPS colleague
“Matthew’s teaching is infused with an energy and passion. Matthew’s ability to make real-world connections from academic classroom to the music room via the Responsive Classroom is both natural and essential.” -Becky Burdett, music teacher at Abington Heights School District
“He models for his students and allows for numerous chances for his students to share in discussion as well as with music and movement. His lessons are thoughtful and allow for many different places the children can go. When he talks about his classroom, you can tell setting a strong sense of community with the students is important to him.” – Clarissa Ward, music teacher at Harford County Schools
“Play. Children need to play. And too often, our schools forget about the natural impetus of play in children, or worse, teach it out of them. The elemental approach to music and movement not only recognizes play, but threads play into all aspects of learning. I strive to create an active music making environment where students are constantly engaged in a wealth of activities – from singing to dancing to creating sounds with their bodies to playing instruments to notating music with graphics to exploring props – the ideas are endless.” – Matthew Stensrud
ACEMM congratulates Matthew Stensrud for his contributions to his students and colleagues, along with his activism in ensuring elemental music education is not only available to his students, but to all students. We wish him luck as he starts his new position at George Mason Elementary School for the 2017-2018 school year!
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