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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Steven Sanders

9th-12th Grade Band, UIC College Prep Chicago, IL

“I refuse to let my students think that music is off limits to them or that they are not talented enough to perform in an ensemble,” says Steven Sanders, who is the high school band director and Fine Arts department chair at UIC College Prep, part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. “Music is for all.”

A Chicagoan by birth, Steve has long held a passion to work with disadvantaged youth. When students enter his classroom, over 90% of them have never taken a basic music class, held an instrument, or read music before. Yet, with nearly 300 students, Steve has continuously led the school’s ensembles to division I and II ratings in city and statewide contests and festivals. In the Jazz Ensemble’s first year of existence last year, his students placed eighth at the Berklee College of Music National High School Jazz Festival among other schools with longstanding traditions of excellence. “More importantly,” says Steve, “with only two graduating classes, there are over 30 former students performing in college ensembles across the nation. They are proof that hard work brings results.”

Steve’s students learn rapidly due to his unwavering expectations and attention to every detail. After he noticed inattentive students gazing at the blank walls during class, he had local artists paint the walls with murals of musical concepts. “The demonstration of learning and feedback to students in this classroom is outstanding,” noted his TNTP observer. “Steve gathers data every second, circulating and listening for each student’s sound and giving immediate feedback to individuals, small groups and the whole class constantly. He inspires and expects them to be their very best, and he is cultivating a deep understanding and appreciation of music in addition to students’ sense of pride and accomplishment.”

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