Kansas State University


College of Education

In the Classroom: Matt Shea

Mr. Shea gives a thumbs up to teaching as a career!

Name:  Matt Shea

School district: Frank Rushton Elementary, Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools

City/State: Kansas City, KS

Class/content area taught: K-5 General Music

What you are most excited about with your new career: I love the fact that I get to teach such foundational knowledge in music making. Creating and participation in music is a life skill that everyone should have and I have the opportunity to hopefully have students for 6 years and build their foundation in keeping a beat to music, singing on pitch, playing classroom instruments, reading music, and creating their own music through improvisation and using the skills learned in class

Mr. Shea’s students perform at a concert.

What you enjoy most about teaching: I love being able to teach EVERY student that’s in the building. With it being my first year, it’s a lot to think about and at times a bit overwhelming, but I’m excited to see how my students grow under my guidance and beyond.

Ways your school/district has supported you: My building staff is SO SUPPORTIVE. Even when I subbed in the building after graduation, I knew my school was where I wanted to work. They are flexible when I need them to be, and I return the gesture whenever that is needed of me. My school principal loves music and is very supportive when I ask anything of her. My boss at the Fine Arts district level has been one of my teachers and mentors throughout my life, so working under her has such a sense of support and familiarity, which is so great! The district provides first- and second-year teachers mentors, and my mentor and I meet almost weekly discussing challenges, planning, our curriculum, building relationships and pedagogy.

Just strumming along.

Ways KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career: I believe having a hand in many things at K-State including all things band and music related, joining fraternities, and taking the classes I did. I followed a pretty normal sequence in the music education field. I don’t think I would even be an elementary teacher without taking my elementary music course with Dr. Gurgel. The way she presented information reinvigorated what it was to be a teacher and to learn music for the first time so that it was fun and engaging for students, especially college-aged kids who are still kids at heart. I appreciated the class for multicultural students and teaching by Tonnie Martinez because it opened my perspective to diverse populations, which is exactly what I am exposed to now in an urban district. I had so many supportive role models and professors at K-State, I thank and take a little something from each one, hoping to be a compassionate and understanding teacher like I was shown in my time at K-State.

It’s time for music!

Specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you: I know my grandmother was a teacher, although she wasn’t alive long enough for me to know much about her career. Although my dad did not choose teaching as a career, he is one of the best teachers I’ve had in my life with regard to being a good person, showing love and discipline, and doing the right thing. He could’ve been a teacher and probably should’ve! My sister has always worked around kids which is where I think my love of kids began. She nannied and worked in daycares, so I was almost always exposed to them. Now that I have began my teaching career, she has gone back to school and is going to receive her degree in Elementary Education in December, which I think is fitting for her too, and is student teaching in my district which ought to be…eye opening.

I think one of the biggest experiences I have which steered me toward being an elementary teacher is my 8+ years experience teaching swimming lessons for kids predominantly but going from ages 1-65. Swimming, like music, is a LIFE SKILL, and I believe is imperative for everyone to learn. Swimming, for safety, can save a life; music, for enjoyment and expression, can also save lives. One of the best things from being a swim teacher is that the activity is so physical that you can see growth in seconds and from day to day or sometimes year to year. In music, because it’s performance based, it is similar to see growth happening right before your eyes.

I am very thankful I have landed where I have.

Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers:

  • Thank your teachers (and get to know them outside of the classroom). Write thank you notes too
  • Always show your best work (even if it’s late)
  • Do what you love and what challenges you and the money will follow.
  • Steal, borrow, take pictures, pick brains of whoever you can with how to be better. There are so many teachers around that are willing to help- you LITERALLY aren’t alone
  • SUBSTITUTE TEACH – this I stress. During student teaching, you may think you had great experience because you were the one in charge while your CT was right outside the room; however, the two weeks you have of doing that doesn’t mean you are already a perfect teacher. If you sub, THEN you really are the one in charge plus the added challenge of never having met the kids before. Just practice practice practice. Fake it til you make it- because if you start believing you’re the teacher, the kids will too. You can pick and choose how often you work and can be flexible, especially right after graduation because I took about a month off (which was about how long it took for my license to process) and you need that mental break after graduation. (December grad here, so you can sub in the spring and it’s perfect). Also, being in different classrooms every day, you can familiarize with the districts’/schools’ resources and figure out what you like and don’t like, you can see how other teachers write lesson plans that work for them that you may not have seen at KSU, and you can NETWORK, which leads me to…
  • Networking!!! For music people, go to KMEA and, if you have the chance, Midwest if you want to go into teaching band/orchestra. I was able to meet up with one of my student teaching placements there at KMEA and schedule some time before student teaching to observe at the school and help out. Reaching out to schools in Manhattan to observe and work with the students, even if it’s not your subject, can be really beneficial. Make your name known, go up to the booths at KMEA representing school districts and introduce yourself (with firm handshake) and ask if there are opportunities to come observe in the district or shadow someone, odds are they will love the initiative you are taking and will remember your name for a potential job interview.