Shannon Waldo, Billings

Shannon Waldo's 5th and 6th grade band

You might think that after 19 years of teaching, anybody would feel like a classroom veteran. Not Shannon Waldo, who teaches K-12 music in Billing R-IV.

“Sometimes I feel like such a newbie,” Shannon said. “I have to remind myself that I’m a veteran teacher.”

Shannon’s background in music is deep. She began learning piano from her mother as a young child and started taking formal lessons in third grade. In high school, Shannon played in band and was a church accompanist. She always knew she wanted to teach, but she hadn’t really thought about teaching music.

“My band director in senior year helped me see that I could blend music and teaching,” Shannon said.

Shannon helps her own students make that connection as well.

“I ask them if they know what they want to do,” she said. “If they don’t know, I tell them they would be good at teaching music. If they think that sounds interesting, I teach them to conduct or encourage them to become drum major.”

Some of Shannon’s former students are finding their own success as band and choir directors. One former student didn’t originally intend to teach music, but changed his mind.

“There was something about the way he worked with the other kids. I just knew he would be a good teacher, and I told him so,” Shannon said. “He said no. I told him he’d be back.”

Sure enough, the young man changed his major to music education. He is now finishing his student teaching and looking for band director jobs.

Shannon gets to know her students well, since she begins working with them in kindergarten. Teaching the full scope of grades is a challenge, but Shannon said it helps her see the bigger picture and build student skills from class to class. Once they’re old enough to begin band and choir, she knows they have the basic skills to make them more successful in performance.

“I know the kids’ strengths and weaknesses,” Shannon said. “It helps me differentiate instruction for each child.”

Shannon’s approach is paying off for her students. At a conference music contest in April, her students scored 31 “one” ratings and six “two” ratings.

In 2016, Shannon was named a Regional Teacher of the Year. The honor has resulted in new opportunities, such as the chance to make a presentation at the Powerful Learning Conference and to be part of a teacher cohort at the Regional Professional Development Center, which allows her to bring best practices back to her school to share with other teachers. Shannon is also participating in Teacher Academy, which she said has been one of the best things for helping her further develop her classroom instruction skills.

Shannon said one of the biggest benefits of the Regional Teacher of the Year award is that during the application process she had a chance to reflect on her classroom practices and the reasons her students are successful. She came to a realization:

“I am far enough along in my career that I can advocate for education without taking away from what I do in the classroom.”

Shannon may sometimes feel like a newbie, but her 19 years of experience and advocacy make her a valuable asset to Billings students and all of her colleagues– newbies and veterans alike.