Alisha Cardwell


Alisha Cardwell

School & School System Where You Work

Riverside High School, Martin County Schools

Number of Years Teaching


Teaching Area(s)

Chorus, Band

Grade Level

High School

What do you love most about teaching music?

I love being able to provide opportunities for students to express themselves, work as a team, and to take them places (literally and figuratively) they would never experience outside of music class.

Who inspired you to be a music educator and how did they inspire you?

My high school band director, Jon Gifford. He challenged the preconceptions of our small, rural school and showed us that we could be successful even with the obstacles standing in our way.

What did you need the most when you started teaching?

A community of support. I needed people to reach out to me and ask me how things were going. I needed someone to tell me what they’ve tried that worked or didn’t work, how to communicate with parents, pitfalls to watch out for that I couldn’t have anticipated, and how to practice self care as a new teacher, not just preach about self care.

Describe the biggest challenge to teaching music education and how you have worked to overcome this challenge?

The biggest challenge has been our everchanging and evolving students and the state of education post-covid. Teaching is a completely different ballgame than it was when I began in 2017. There are tons of books and research done every year by educational scholars, but the day to day of teaching is so unpredictabe. Teachers have to work harder than ever to “sell” their product to students and show them how valuable education is for their future. Through these obstacles, I have worked to grow alongside my students and seek to understand their outlook on education and find what motivates them. I have embarked on a lot of character development practices and social-emotional learning to begin to grasp what my students go through everyday. This is a work in progress, but something that must be done to be a successful educator and make a difference in the lives of students.

How do you advocate for your program?

I like to think that as a music professional, it is my obligation to educate the community about our programs and all that goes on behind the scenes to make these opportunities happen for our students. I constantly advertise what is happening in my classroom to my parents, the community, school, administration, and county office personnel. I invite our superintendent and school board members into my classroom. I reach out to businesses and tell them about the amazing things happening in our school and how they can become a part of it.

What is one piece of advice you would give to beginning teachers?

Cliche- don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a tribe of colleagues, friends, and mentors who you can talk to about the challenges you’re facing in and outside of school.

How do you build relationships with students and parents?

I live in the same small community in which I teach, and am very involved in the community. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it has been a very positive experience. I think it makes a large difference that my students and parents know that I’m invested in more than just the music programs at my school. I also build relationships by engaging in positive parent interactions. It is important to reach out to parents for more than to express concerns about their child or ask for volunteers. Find ways to brag on their child! I also speak to my students in real and honest ways. I try to avoid the authoritarian mentality, and find appropriate ways to be vulnerable with my students so that they understand the care and thought that goes into the day to day responsibilities of my job.