NAfME Academy’s First Anniversary
With over 80 Hours of Professional Development—and Growing!—NAfME Academy is a Valuable and Easily Accessible Resource for Music Educators
By Andrew S. Berman
This article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Teaching Music.
When a schedule change at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland resulted in less time for supervisors to meet with teachers, NAfME member and music supervisor Judith Hawkins was concerned that it would impact professional development. It was already difficult to schedule group sessions with a staggered bell schedule making everyone’s school day end at a different time. The answer came in an email: NAfME Academy.
What is NAfME Academy?
NAfME Academy is an online learning platform for music educators to access professional development materials specific to their classrooms. “There is content in NAfME Academy for every music educator,” assures JJ Norman, NAfME’s Professional Development Manager. NAfME Academy consists of a series of detailed webinars, browsable by category. Registered members can look around for topics that interest them, or they can search for something specific.
Registration is a simple process that begins here. After paying a subscription fee of $20 (the NAfME member rate), you will have access to a growing library that totaled 82 hours of webinars as of December 2017. NAfME Academy is accessible to you anywhere where you have an internet connection. “The feedback we’ve heard over and over again is that music educators love the asynchronous aspect of NAfME Academy,” says Norman. “They can use the Academy wherever they happen to be, and can apply what they learned in their classroom the very next day.” Upon completion of a webinar, there is a brief assessment consisting of a few questions. Teachers who score 75% or higher on the assessment receive a certificate of completion valued at one contact hour. Avid learners can soon amass a repertoire of certificates, broadening their knowledge and ability to teach and lead. The Academy’s base of knowledge is growing too, with a plan to add 50 new webinars each year. New webinars are added as they are created, enabling a constant flow of new content into
Why NAfME Academy?
Hawkins says that NAfME Academy is a great avenue for teachers who need professional development credit to achieve tenure or renew their professional certification. Beyond fulfilling requirements, “It’s helping them be the best teachers they can be,” she observes. Hawkins also notes that it’s a valuable tool for her as a supervisor. She sees the certificates of completion rolling in from her teachers finishing the webinars and gains insight into their interests and the areas in which they feel they need reinforcement. “Surveys may not address those needs and likes,” she points out. She’s found that hip-hop and general music are of particular interest among music teachers in her district. “So far, I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” she says.
“It’s helping them be the best teachers they can be.” — Judith Hawkins
Hawkins’ positive experience using NAfME Academy as a district administrator is a model of the Academy’s direction for its second year and beyond, shares Norman. “We hope to see the trend of district supervisors purchasing subscriptions for all those they oversee continue and grow,” he says. In addition to Hawkins’ home district of Prince George’s County, which has purchased 68 subscriptions, Atlanta Public Schools has provided 100 to its music faculty, and the New York City Department of Education recently purchased 450.
NAfME Academy grew out of an earlier professional development program and has greatly surpassed its predecessor. Norman reports that the first year of NAfME Academy has exceeded expectations with over 4,000 registered users. He attributes this success to ease of access, and adds that the need for a readily accessible, inexpensive program was the impetus for the creation of the Academy.
Unlimited access is important given the realities of a career in music education. A chorus teacher may be called upon to teach a guitar class. Any sort of shift in a school’s budget or circumstances can have the music teacher going where they’re most needed, which may not be their specialty. NAfME Academy may not get the chorus teacher 100% of the way to confidently instructing a class of students on guitar, but “Developing the Successful Guitar Class” by Michael Christiansen and “Finding the Right Music Literature for Your Guitar Program” by Christopher Perez are a great place to start and, once you’re registered, they’re right there in NAfME Academy library.
Testimonials from Webinar Presenters
NAfME Academy users who want to get further involved with the program can apply to become webinar presenters. The NAfME Professional Development Committee has an evergreen call for proposals. At any time, interested members can submit their proposals to present a NAfME Academy webinar at bit.ly/NAfME-PD-Webinars. All proposals are peer-reviewed. “NAfME Academy is by music educators, for music educators,” says Norman.
“NAfME Academy is by music educators, for music educators.” — JJ Norman
“I had this idea for a presentation called ‘Stop the Clock Gawk,’” recalls NAfME member Angela Ammerman, assistant professor and coordinator of music education at the University of Tennessee at Martin. “Music educators frequently comment on the lack of classroom management training in the typical undergraduate degree program.” Ammerman brought her proposal to the NAfME Professional Development Committee, and it was approved. “When I received the acceptance email, I was thrilled to finally get a chance to share my message!” Ammerman then worked with Norman to create her webinar. He suggested a format in which both her PowerPoint slide deck and her face as she’s giving the presentation are visible to the user. “The process was way easier than I had expected,” she says. Ammerman was able to download an application and record her presentation right from her home.
Ammerman’s webinar is called “Top Ten Tips to Energize Your Rehearsal,” and it was inspired both by her time as a music educator and her experiences growing up as a music student. “As a music educator, I made it my goal to always keep my students engaged and excited to be in my classroom,” reflects Ammerman. “The minute I would see a student look at the clock, I knew I needed to step up my game.” The ultimate goal of her webinar beyond energizing the children is meeting them where they are. “The thing we have to remember is that we want our students (all of our students) to be lifelong music lovers,” she says. “That means that we must find ways to reach each and every child, even the ones who can barely stay focused for ten minutes!”
NAfME member Missy Strong, music specialist at Fleetwood Elementary School in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and adjunct professor of music education at Montclair State University, also in New Jersey, feels strongly that “music teachers, who can often feel quite isolated, thrive when they feel that they are a part of the broader music ed community.” Strong created the “What Is Conversational Solfege and How Can It Fit into My Elementary Music Classroom?” and “Folk Dancing in the General Music Classroom” webinars. Conversational Solfege (CS) is a notational literacy program developed by John Feierabend. Since Strong is an endorsed teacher trainer in CS for the Feierabend Association for Music Education, she thought it was a great topic for a NAfME Academy webinar. “So many people are using Conversational Solfege or interested in finding out about it that doing a webinar with such a vast reach made a lot of sense,” Strong relates. “And the folkdance webinar was just plain fun, and something that people want to do but don’t necessarily know how to start in their classrooms!”
The experience of recording webinars reinforced Strong’s feeling that NAfME Academy is a “fantastic” way for teachers to develop their skills. She says the Academy “offers a plethora of PD [Professional Development] opportunities at the fingertips of music educators that otherwise might not be available. And of course, any PD that a music teacher experiences is bound to positively impact their students!”
“Any professional development that a music teacher experiences is bound to positively impact their students!” — Missy Strong
To learn more about NAfME Academy, visit bit.ly/NAfMEAcademy. There you will find a full list of useful webinars, plus a brief instructional video providing an inside look at the platform. You can also see the sidebar for a list of the most popular webinar topics currently available in the library. Sign up for a $20 subscription or speak to your supervisor about subscriptions for you and your colleagues. The next new webinar could be the topic you’ve been waiting for, or it could already be waiting for you in the library.
A Sampling of Webinars
Looking for a place to start? Check out these webinars, which are the most popular among NAfME Academy users:
- Alternative Techniques for Teaching Middle School Band
- Essential Time Management Strategies for Teachers
- Fostering Independent Musicians in the Choral Classroom
- OMG Strings! Tips and Tools for the Non–Strings-Playing Strings Teacher
- Professionalism in the Education Workplace
- Set Up for Success: Keys to a Well-Run Classroom
- Teaching Lessons to Special Learners
- Top Ten Tips to Energize Your Rehearsal