In her music classes at Southeastern, Jennifer Valencia studied the work of Bach, Mozart and Brahms. But it was the work of Southeastern music professors Bryant, Seybert and Braamse that helped mold her talents into a career.
Valencia, who graduated from Southeastern in 2006, credits Southeastern professors John Seybert, Ed Bryant and Dr. Shudong Braamse with teaching her the skills and techniques to land a job as a school choral director. Valencia says that God used her professors to push her musically and personally and demonstrate how teaching music could be a powerful ministry.
When Valencia first came to Southeastern, she was hesitant to declare music education as her major because she didn't want to spend five years in school teaching kids-in her words- "how to bang on tambourines." After taking classes with music professor Bryant, however, she began to see how a teacher can minister God's love. Bryant showed students compassion while challenging them to set goals and strive for excellence. Bryant was interested in Valencia's aspirations and plans and helped her find direction, she said.
Southeastern linguistics professor Bernardo Blanco also encouraged Valencia on her journey to becoming a teacher. He described both the benefits and difficulties of being a teacher and gave Valencia insight into effectively teaching students whose native language is not English.
Valencia also credits Southeastern music professor Seybert with inspiring her to become a teacher. He taught Valencia's teaching methods courses in music education and arranged for her to observe and teach in local schools. Valencia didn't appreciate Seybert's assignments at first, but she said being "thrown" into classrooms helped her see what teaching was all about-and that she liked it. Later, during the student teaching requirement of the music education major, Valencia gained four months of crucial class planning and management experience at Rochelle School of the Arts in Lakeland, Florida. At Rochelle, Valencia also taught elementary chorus for third through fifth grades and directed several concerts.
In addition to teaching skills, voice lessons at Southeastern equipped Valencia to become a music teacher. Valencia's classical vocal training has given her the ability to determine students' vocal range and detect problems in pitch, phrasing, diction and vowel sounds, she said. The vocal instruction Valencia received at Southeastern improved her own singing too. Voice lessons with Dr. Braamse helped Valencia add seven notes to her vocal range. This increase enabled Valencia to sing in the mezzo-soprano range, which includes higher notes than the alto range in which she began as a singer. It was Braamse's high expectations that helped Valencia grow as a singer. When Valencia made mistakes during lessons, Dr. Braamse challenged her to try sections again. "Braamse made me into a classical singer that I didn't think I could ever be," Valencia said. In addition to voice lessons Valencia sang as a member of Southeastern Singers, Worship Choir, and Chamber Singers during her tenure at Southeastern.
Polk County (Fla.) Public Schools offered Valencia a job as a choral director two days after she graduated from Southeastern. Valencia will manage a K-8 choral program and teach middle school choir, general music and music theory classes at Davenport School of the Arts in Davenport, Florida.
As a new music teacher, Valencia plans to employ the music and teaching skills she gained at Southeastern as well as the spiritual lessons she garnered from her professors. These lessons from Bryant, Seybert, Blanco and Dr. Braamse include showing students compassion and guiding and inspiring their growth. "I (was) very impressed by all the faculty and staff," said Valencia. She later added, "I give Southeastern an A-plus."