Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Activate! Asks: Deborah A. Imiolo

Fun Facts
  • I can touch my nose...with my tongue.
  • I took dancing lessons twice when I was little, but I quit both times because I was afraid to perform in front of people.
  • My sister, Jacquelynn, bought me my first toy xylophone as a Christmas present. I was 7 years old.
  • I like my chicken wings hot with blue cheese. 

How many years have you been teaching?
Twenty-five, but it feels like I just started! When teaching is no longer fun for me, then it's time for me to retire.

What inspired you to become an elementary music educator?
While working on my bachelor's degree at the Eastman School of Music, I heard laughter and fun coming from a room across the hall. I went to investigate and discovered musicians marching and chanting, "Oh, the Grand Old Duke of York...Trrrrrrrm!" I was changed forever! Also, while student teaching (I had a concentration in instrumental music), I fell asleep during a beginner fourth-grade saxophone lesson. (Sorry saxophone players.) Clearly, my passion was in elementary music! 

Tell us about your funniest teaching moment.
Well, a first grade student asked me if he could sing a song for the class. His older brother was a very, very, very good boy, so I assumed his younger brother was the same. I will not repeat the version of "Yankee Doodle" he shared with the class. Funny how that class learned the song after hearing it once.

If you could have only one item in your teaching bag, what would it be and why?
Please don't restrict me. I'm a percussionist! I need it all.

What is your favorite teaching resource?
My mind and the talents God has given me are my favorite resources. He amazes me!

What is your favorite publication (that you've authored) and why?
"We're Gonna Play Today!" This is my favorite because it opened the door for the next book.

What music do you listen to in your free time?
My children, practicing their instruments.
Tell us about your favorite lesson/unit to teach.
I love teaching mixed meter, irregular meter, and modes!   

What is one piece of advice that you have for folks who are new to the elementary music classroom?
Don't be afraid of the chaos. There will be chaos, so embrace it and enjoy it. The children are having fun learning and they don't know if you feel that your lesson crashed and burned. If it does, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and try again.

What educator most influenced your teaching style or your life?
Steve Calentropio inspired me to push the limits on what I was originally teaching and writing for my students.

If there was one instrument you can ban from all elementary music classrooms, what would it be and why?
Hmmmm...ban? An instrument? Snapping fingers, because I can't snap (I fake it well!). I would also like to make high quality sand blocks that sound fully sandy. Oh, slapstick. Get rid of it and get a whip made from two boards, two great handles from cupboards, and hinge the boards together or heavy-duty staple them together with a leather strap.

What is your go-to strategy to rein in an unruly class?

What excites you most about the future of music education?
The children excite me. They are the future of all education.

Would you like to share your story?

We are looking for Activate! subscribers to share their teaching advice and anecdotes. You can complete the interview at We will share as many responses as we can on our blog, and one lucky subscriber will win a free subscription to Activate! and be featured in the April/May 2017 issue.