Students of SPU: Teaching through experience

Music education student uses her experiences and identity to inform her teaching

Emma Brown, Staff Reporter

Kirsten Gilmore is a fourth-year SPU student majoring in Music Education. (Caitlyn Schnider)

Even as a child, fourth year music education major Kirsten Gilmore knew she loved music. From singing as a toddler to teaching music lessons for children, music has always been an integral part of her life. Now, she is working to channel that passion towards making an impact on kids like her.

“Anything can be musical, and that music has the opportunity to create connections between so many different people,” Gilmore said.

During high school, Gilmore was involved in both choir and band. Her vocal coach and other music teachers were an inspiration to her to chase her dreams and find what fits. Seeing what they did eventually made her realize that she wanted to do the same thing. So when it came time for her to attend college, she knew the direction she needed to go.

As she has been working her way through her last years of school, she has had to adjust to several changes in how her classes and teachings operate. While some of these adjustments have been difficult for her to acclimate to, they have also provided her with valuable experience she would not have gotten otherwise.

“This remote time has given me some really cool opportunities that are not part of an education program. You don’t take a class on like, ‘How do you teach someone to sing over zoom?’ It’s not a thing that we learn, but I have learned how to do that,” Gilmore explained.

While music is a major part of her life, it is not the only thing that contributes to her identity. Gilmore is a member of the LGBTQ community. In SPU’s music department, Gilmore has been able to find a community where she feels welcomed and accepted.

However, she knows that not everyone at the university has had the same experience, and this knowledge has had an impact on how she wants to approach teaching.

“As a queer person on SPU’s campus, that has been a really unique place to be in right now because I am experiencing that as a student at an institution [that has] policies that are hurting their queer community,” Gilmore said. “I’m so close to being on the other side of it and being a teacher and being the person who’s creating that space for kids like me. So, that is definitely something that I can see influencing my teaching a lot.”

In the past year, Gilmore has begun to highlight this part of her identity more. By doing so, she has learned where that piece of the puzzle fits into who she is as a person.

“It’s not my entire personality, there are other aspects of who I am as a human, but also [I’ve recognized] that like, hey, this experience does affect the way that I think about things and just the way that I see life and faith and music, and all sorts of other things,” Gilmore said.

All of these experiences have influenced the classroom environment she wants to create as a teacher in the future, and after she graduates, Gilmore hopes to teach at a public school and possibly at a college someday.

For her, teaching is a crossroad where all parts of her identity and passions are able to come together. As a teacher, she plans to make her classroom an environment where all children she teaches can feel welcome.

“When I have a classroom in the future, and when my students walk into my classroom, I want it to feel like a safe space for them and I want them to know that there is room for them, they are heard,” Gilmore said. “I think that I’m in a really unique place to do that, and it just kind of brings together all of the things that I am passionate about, supporting people and listening to people’s stories and sharing stories and making music.”