Scholarship Impact

Meet scholarship recipient Andres Calvillo


What impact did receiving a scholarship have on you?

Receiving the Merle Isaac Great Teachers Scholarship was especially important; if I had not received that help, I wouldn’t be here. I received it at an important point in my life when I was struggling financially. It was an important part of my decision to attend VanderCook. I am 100% sure that without this scholarship it would have been impossible for me to continue my education.

Tell me about the passion you have for teaching in city schools?

When I graduate, I want to teach in a Chicago public high school. When I was student teaching in Chicago, I realized the number of lives that could be touched through the music program. Urban education is something that I feel strongly about, but resources are not always available for students to expand their studies. I believe that everybody should have an opportunity to participate and explore music.

What do you feel is your biggest responsibility as a recipient of a scholarship and graduate of the college?

To help kids develop personally, emotionally and socially through the media of music. The biggest thing I noticed from my high school days, at Lane Tech, is the diversity in the students. At Lane Tech, there are 5,000 students from different backgrounds and religions but the connection we shared through music made us all feel like a part of a family. The same is true at my high school placement. Kids come from all over the world, with drastic differences among them; some have serious emotional problems, others speak no English. Music for these kids is a luxury. That connection still reaches them with a strong sense of belonging to something special.

What do you do with kids that do not speak English?

I can communicate with Hispanic kids, but there are others who speak a different language. Right now the room where I teach has a capacity for 30 but there are 50 in the class. So I seat the kids with no understanding of English at the front of the class and exaggerate everything. I use arm motions, facial expressions - you really have to think of creative ways to communicate. My cooperating teacher will take these students aside and work with them one-on-one. However, unless he is working with a student teacher, he does not have the opportunity to do this.

Where do you see yourself in five years and where do you feel you will have the most impact?

I see myself teaching in the city and working with students who use music as their outlets. I have a student who was a problem in all the other classes, but I connected with her through music. She loved that I was able to speak Spanish with her. I found her taking her instrument home every day to practice and soon she was helping other students correct technique problems.

What types of experiences have you had in the public schools that made you decide you have purpose in this area?

My purpose is reaffirmed when I come across students who don’t excel academically or don’t really have a solid medium in which to express themselves. For those kids, I found that often times music is something they could easily relate to. What I essentially do is give them the tools of inspiration and expression.

We have no idea what children are going through. One of the many stories that has influenced my decision to teach in an innercity school is one about a young boy and his family. After noticing this young boy's father no longer picking him up or dropping him off at school and the fragile state he and his younger brother were in, I learned their tragic story.

The family had been through a dramatic chain of events that landed the father in jail, the oldest brother in serious trouble and one brother dead. An innocent game of cops and robbers by two young children who found their father's loaded gun ended so tragically. The student in our music class was left to look after his younger brother. Only in the fourth grade, this young boy used music to help heal the tragedies in life he had endured at such a young age. His younger brother, only in the first grade, was visibly looking to do the same. He wanted so badly to start music classes just like his older brother. The school where I student taught allowed the youngest brother to participate despite their rule of a fourth grade start. These kids need a way to get the negative energy out and music helped them deal with all problems they were going through.





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3140 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60616-3731
(312) 225-6288

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