By Angela Kelly
From a child, I was inspired by the powerful influence of teachers. I remember listening to a recording of “Molder of Dreams,” a speech by Guy Doud, who was the recipient of the National Teacher of the Year award in 1986. Hearing him speak of the impact of teachers in his life, and how they believed in him when no one else thought he was worth anything, moved me to tears. In reflection, I see that even when I was a child God was drawing me toward a career in teaching.
Wonderful teachers at my church’s private school, in Sunday school, and also in my early piano studies not only shaped my life but also my awe of teaching as an occupation. In fact, my final decision to become a piano teacher was partially due to a comment made by my Sunday school teacher during my senior year of high school. “What would you feel passionate about doing every day if money wasn’t an object?” he asked. Once that was determined, he said we could then match those interests with a career to pursue. That Sunday morning, it clicked. My passion was music, and I knew I wanted a career where I could, with the help of God, make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others.
Positive and negative influences of teaching were apparent throughout my studies of music. Shortly before quitting lessons to start college, my piano teacher asked me what career I had chosen. When I told her I wanted to be a piano teacher, she curtly replied, “You’re not cut out for that.” Little did she know I had already been teaching for a couple of years. Her comment shook my confidence in my ability to teach, but my undergraduate piano professor was an incredibly gifted teacher with the ability to inspire and build up. To this day, he is still a mentor and dear friend.
At the graduate level, however, my professor was the exact antithesis of that first professor. It was not uncommon for me to cry my way home from lessons due to her critical words. Looking back, I’m thankful God allowed me to experience firsthand the ability of a teacher to crush or build up, and I pray that I’m a more effective teacher because of it. Oh, by the way, that professor who was so critical? Since receiving my master’s degree, God has turned that relationship around completely. We now occasionally meet for lunch, and she has twice invited me to return to my alma mater, Portland State University, to speak to her piano pedagogy students!
I’ve now taught piano for eighteen years and still keep in contact with many of my former students. Not long ago I received a Facebook message from one student, now in his early twenties, married, and in college. He wanted to thank me for investing in him and teaching him how to play. While going through some struggles recently and trying to get back to where he should be with God, playing the piano has been a huge blessing to him.
Matthew 5:13 states that we are the salt of the earth. As we follow God’s leading and pursue career paths based on talents and interests He’s given us, we are scattered as grains of salt through our respective communities. Each one of us has our very own unique circle of influence.
Remember: God has a plan for your life and wants to use you to make a difference!
The above article, “Teaching at a Keyboard,” is written by Angela Kelly. The article was excerpted from Reflections Magazine.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.