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Building confidence, keeping things fresh: the ups and downs of teaching high school music

Music teachers Erick Senkmajer and Erika Senecal
Joe Linstroth
Michigan Radio
Erick Senkmajer and Erika Senecal teach music at Port Huron Northern High School.

Taking that first step down a career path can be daunting, like stepping into a world completely unknown.

On the flip side, if you've been walking that path a while, odds are you've learned a thing or two.

In this segment, Stateside continues its new series about being at opposite ends of the same career path. It's called Work in Progress. It's a conversation between two people, one who's just starting out in a job, and one who's been working in the field for a long time. 

We'll hear from people who have made all sorts of career choices, from symphony conductors to priests, nurses, and farmers. 

Here, we turn the spotlight on two high school music teachers, Erika Senecal, who's been on the job for seven months, and Erick Senkmajer, a 27-year veteran. They both teach at Port Huron Northern High School.

Senkmajer  said that one of the things that surprised him most in his first year was how challenging the job was.

Erick Senkmajer and Erika Senecal
Credit Joe Linstroth / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Erick Senkmajer and Erika Senecal sat down to talk about the best and hardest parts of their jobs.

"I didn't realize I would spend so much of my first year with my head down on my desk crying," he said.

Senecal said her own experience in high school was a main driver in choosing this career path.

"One of the only reasons that I was emotionally able to make it through high school was to be creative during my day," she said.

Ultimately, Senkmajer said his favorite part of the job is "seeing kids care."

"It's absolutely the best and, being in the arts, you get to be surrounded by those kinds of kids," he said.

Listen above to hear what mistakes they think they've made in their careers, what advice they have to offer, the rewarding moments in class, and how changing societal and political views about their jobs have affected their work in this "era of accountability."

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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