March Teacher Spotlight: Kim Driscoll

This month we’re featuring Kim Driscoll, an outstanding teacher from Mentor, OH. Kim currently teaches orchestra for grades 5-7 at Mentor Public Schools. Kim grew up in Mentor and ended up taking over for the teacher who started her on the violin when she retired. Kim attended Miami University for Music Education and completed her masters degree at Ohio State University with Dr. Gillespie. Before her current teaching position, she taught in Middletown, OH, which is where she discovered BVS! We are so lucky to work with such awesome teachers and we love learning more about them each month. If you want to learn more about Kim, keep reading below!

Can you tell me a little about your school’s orchestra program?

Our program in Mentor starts in 5th grade at our 7 elementary schools. Our two middle schools have three levels of orchestra. Middle school students also have an opportunity to join our after-school Chamber or Rock orchestras. Our high school program has two levels of string orchestra, a full symphony orchestra, and a chamber orchestra called Mannheim. We currently have well over 400 students enrolled in our orchestra program. In addition to myself, my orchestra colleagues are Matt Yoke who teaches grades 8-12 and Kelly Lo who starts our beginners at three of the elementary buildings. I teach four of the elementary buildings and grades 6 and 7 at both middle schools. I also direct the Chamber/Rock orchestras and the pit orchestra for the high school musical.

What city do you currently teach in?

Mentor, Ohio

What instruments do you play/ teach?

I grew up as a violin player and have recently been playing and teaching more viola. I also spent two summers as the upright bass player for a jug band… though my bass skills are not the best.

How did your career in music get started?

I was actually totally expecting to grow up to be a geologist. I was heavily involved in science in high school in addition to music. In my senior year of high school, I had already applied to Miami with the intention of joining the science department. I was in the top orchestra at my high school, in region and state orchestra, taught lessons, played a lot of gigs, but it had never occurred to me that I would love it as a career. I was backstage at one of my younger siblings’ elementary orchestra concerts after helping get everyone tuned when I realized that I had much more passion for music and specifically for working with students than I did for science. I absolutely love my job and my students, plus I also get to coach my middle school’s science team!

What’s your favorite song to play?

I keep my copy of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas in my violin case and frequently peruse movements I’ve never had a chance to play.

What are some of your other hobbies?

I’ve recently started learning photography. It started when I needed to get good pictures of students at science competitions, but I’ve been branching out to more creative subjects.

What has been your favorite moment as a teacher?

I get to know students for many years since I start most of them in 5th grade. I started a tradition of bringing in freshmen orchestra students in to talk to 8th grade orchestra students about what it’s like to move from middle school to high school. There’s no music involved, but I just love seeing what type of people they are growing up to be. I’m so proud that there are so many students who are willing to come back and share their experiences with younger students. They start making a connection and look out for them when they get to the high school.

What do you find to be the best motivator for students?

I think students are highly motivated when they feel successful. Whether they totally nail a difficult piece at a concert or they finally master a new technique, they want to feel like they’ve accomplished something and they’re proud of their work. We as teachers have to work to help them see those moments. Students want to be held to high expectations and we have to be ready to show them how awesome it is when they meet them.

What are your future goals as a musician and teacher?

Every year my goal is just to get a little bit better at what I do. I usually take it one to-do list at a time. My one long-term goal is to get as many students involved in making music as possible and do my best to make sure they leave our program feeling like music has helped enriched their life.

Do you have any advice for new teachers?

Learn how to ask for help whether it’s just for advice or you need actual help. Don’t get stuck at school sorting spirit wear t-shirts all alone until 9:00 at night because you’re bad at asking people to help you.

You can feel like you had a bad day because you had one negative interaction with a student/colleague/administrator. Don’t let that one negative thing erase all of the positive things that happened, because there were definitely more positives than negatives.

Lighten up. Especially if you teach middle school. Those kids are weird and they feel better if you’re a little weird too. Geek out, have fun, and don’t be afraid to show them that you’re a person.

Fun fact?

I named my dog after my favorite composer and I always introduce him to new people as Dmitri Shostakovich.

Courtney Kappa