img_4771-225x300Congratulations to Erin Dressler, Spring, 2016 Recipient of ACEMM’s Spotlight Award

“When I teach a lesson it’s not my lesson, it belongs my students, so they guide the learning.”
— Erin Dressler

Learning in the Classroom

Erin Dressler is an elemental music and movement specialist at Bertha Ronzone Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada. She’s grown with and through the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education and has established herself as a leader from within the ranks of active teachers in her field.

Erin’s classes provide children with the ability to learn to explore and collaborate through elemental music and movement in innovative and exciting ways. Of course the students, sing, dance, improvise in multitudes of ways and play instruments like small percussion and xylophones and recorder. Erin says, “I am always teaching the children how to play. How to play together and how to cooperate.” She notes that these skills need to be gently coaxed and reinforced in order to build the classroom community terra firma that must be in place for creativity and imagination to flourish. “I’m focused on creating good people who will take the skills they learn in my classroom and cherish them and apply them to any kind of musical or non-musical situation their life may bring. “Movement, puppetry, poetry and music for hundreds of her students. The kids love her program!”– Jill Hoverder, Ronzone Elementary Art Teacher. Here first graders performing for Ronzone Winter Arts Night on January 27, 2016.

Ten fifth graders chosen to perform at the CCSD Orff Festival. These students will join 27 other elementary schools in the 24th annual "Growing In Song."
Ten fifth graders chosen to perform at the CCSD Orff Festival. These students will join 27 other elementary schools in the 24th annual “Growing In Song.”

Aileen Simon, a fifth grader at Ronzone Elementary shared that “Ms. Dressler gives good advice, she encourages everyone, and she will be there for you anytime.” Erin has been teaching this student through elemental music and movement, but what mattered most about Erin’s teaching to this learner was the relationship they’ve forged—one of trust, positivity, and reliability. What a gift to bring to children! Guiding and shaping learners to grow through elemental music brings these students who struggle in any number of ways at school or at home to find consistent, meaningful, imaginative, successful, artistic experiences in which they are owners and partakers.

Erin’s colleague, Sarah Sunnasy, a 5th grade teacher, resolved that “Every student in [Ms. Dressler’s] class is capable of succeeding in the music classroom, and she works every day to prove this to her students. Mrs. Dressler works tirelessly and passionately to bring the Arts to our school and to our community. [S]he consistently puts in the extra work to ensure our students are exposed to the possibilities that exist… [She’s] a true role model, not just for her students who adore her, but for educators everywhere.”

 Three Cheers for Ms. Dressler!

“Ms. Dressler is one of the best elementary music teachers I have known. [Her] passion for excellence in her teaching is shown wherever she goes.”
– Martin Marsh, National Board Certified Teacher

“Erin Dressler is masterful at delivering engaging and effective lessons to all of the students at our school. Students are excited about school because of the music program and lessons that Mrs. Dressler offers.”
– Lori McGaughey, Principal, Ronzone Elementary School

“Erin has incredible talent, limitless passion, and wonderful sense of humor.”
– Linda Sherer, Assistant Principal

Each year Erin takes 10 students to the Clark County School District Orff Festival where 28 other schools also participate. They perform together the last Saturday of February each year at University of Nevada Las Vegas’s Ham Hall. This is a HUGE deal! Even the superintendent of thousands of students stands backstage with these honored students encouraging them before they perform.

In trying to expand opportunities for her students, she is always trying to acquire more learning tools and resources for them. She has received funding through many Donors Choose Projects in the past and has recently applied for an AOSA grant for a classroom set of tubano drums.

In the midst of her demanding professional life over the past several years, she completed three levels of Orff Schulwerk teacher education, became a mother and began raising a daughter, continued managing the delicate family work-life balance and even completed her MMEd. at UNLV.

In Erin’s words:

“I love my job because I am able to allow creativity and expression. I think as elemental music educators we need… the opportunity to make this elemental music together. Attending local workshops, National Conferences the support organizations like the American Center for Elemental Music and Movement offer are SO important for us because we need to learn as much as we can from as many great educators as possible. As the only music educator in my building, I look forward to seeing and working with other music educators from my district and beyond. Professional development, Orff Festival, our online district conference, all of these things contribute to making me who I am in the classroom. I teach with amazing teachers that genuinely care about and love their students and are truly making a difference. Poverty is against us, but these children value what I give them, even if they don’t realize it yet.”

Elemental music and movement teachers in every situation face struggles and celebrate victories. Every child faces their own unique struggle, and their own pathway to victory. Honoring the individual and helping young learners come to know and understand the unique value each person adds to the greater community is one of the boundless gifts of this teaching approach offers students of any age.

Erin Dressler affirms that elemental music and movement educators are giving something daily to children that they truly value even if they don’t realize it yet.

ACEMM congratulates Erin Dressler on the supportive comments from administrators, colleagues and parents. Her efforts have not only benefited the students she teaches but have awakened an understanding among the larger community that music and movement education can have a powerful impact on the social and aesthetic development of young people.

Bertha Ronzone Elementary School in the Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district in the country, educating almost 75 percent of all students in Nevada with more than 320,000 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th grade. The district encompasses 356 schools and approximately 8,000 square miles in southern Nevada and is a minority majority student district. With more than 40,000 employees, CCSD is also the largest employer in the state.*

This is a uniquely challenging school environment, but not one without rewards. The population is such that there is only enough room for 4/5 of the students in the physical school building. The students are divided up into 5 groups called “tracks.” One track is always gone from the school–  basically on a rolling “summer break.” However, since Erin’s school has a high English Language Learner population, extra class days are offered for those children, which amounts to 17 school days in addition to their usual 175. Erin’s school is on a 6-day rotation; however, the primary classes on the 4/5 track system must be on a 7 or 8 day rotation depending on which track is on break. This school has a high English Language Learner population as well, so extra class days are offered for those children. She must keep rigorous records and a detailed calendar all year indicating numerically which lesson number that class is on. This demands a very organized and sequential approach. All of these factors must be thoughtfully considered before the plans for teaching and learning can be put into action—and that is where the magic happens!