Orchestra teacher Heidi Gunderson began teaching at GEHS this year. Being at a new school, she made it important to make her teaching as effective as possible.
“I always like to have a plan when I teach, I like to have them try it and see how they do and then kind of work from there,” Gunderson said. “I guess it’s kind of a back and forth, so they give and then I give and we kind of meet in the middle.”
Gunderson’s class is welcoming and can be for students that are completely new to music.
“If a student isn’t doing very well, I usually meet with them one on one or I’ll kind of go and help them for a minute in class,” Gunderson said. “I’ll give people a chance to work on something and then I’ll go directly to that student and work with just them.”
Gunderson teaches for all students. If a student doesn’t understand a concept in class, she will know what to do to make them understand.
“I start them off with bowing technique ’cause it’s really important,” Gunderson said.
Bowing is a technique in an orchestra with a long stick strung with hair and can be pulled across instruments such as the cello, viola, violin, and bass. Bowing is very important when it comes to orchestra because it is used for every instrument and it can be applied for the entirety of the time in the class.
“I would not say orchestra is easy,” Gunderson said. “Is it easy to get a good grade? Yes, because you just participate and do the best you can. But to play an orchestral instrument is really hard.”
Gunderson’s class is for participation points, but to be good at playing an orchestra instrument, students have to improve and adapt to their instrument. It takes a lot of effort and it’s very rewarding.
“I think finding the things that will relate to students is the hardest part, so you can’t just teach the concepts or the ideas,” Gunderson said. “You have to make it relate to the student for it to stick. I think that is probably our biggest challenge getting to know the students and making sure we teach in a way that makes it stick.”
Gunderson’s journey started at Emporia University taking orchestra classes. She loved the classes so much that she decided to start teaching orchestra at Shawnee Mission High School.
“I learned how to be a teacher at Emporia State University, and I learned how to be an orchestra director at Wichita State University,” said Gunderson. “So I guess I started teaching in Shawnee Mission and then a spot opened up at Trailridge. I had that job for nine years, I think, and then this spot opened up and I got it.”
Gunderson loves teaching and it is her dream job to be teaching here.
“When I was really young I thought I wanted to be a doctor and then I realized that I get the heebie-jeebies when it comes to medical things, so that wasn’t gonna be a really good fit for me. I always loved music and the music room was always like my home when I was in high school,” Gunderson said,
The students here are very eager to learn and the system here makes it easy to teach during the first year at this new school.
“There are some other high school jobs that opened up but I really like Gardner,” Gunderson said. “I like the program here and I feel like this program is really well put together … I feel like this is really where I should be. I feel like it’s not just the program here that’s great, it’s the students and the teachers who are great and very friendly.