Saralyn Bates


Saralyn Bates

School & School System Where You Work

Scotts A+ Elementary School, Iredell-Statesville Schools

Number of Years Teaching


Teaching Area(s)


Grade Level


What do you love most about teaching music?

Those “light bulb” moments, when my students make connections or ask exactly the right question(s) that get a whole class excited to keep moving forward in the lesson.

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

My Dad inspired me to be a music teacher (much to his chagrin, LOL) and my Aunt Sally (his sister) inspired me to be the kind of teacher I try to be every day. My fondest memories are summers at Kure Beach, sitting in front of the ocean, and listening to them tell stories.

When I would go with my Dad to school events, I could see not only his love and passion for music but his students were a reflection of that! Even today, after being retired for 25ish years, he still has former students telling him how they’ve taught their kids the songs they used to sing in elementary school or how band/choir was their favorite time of the day.

My Aunt Sally taught me to treat every kid as an individual and that every child has the potential to do something great. That going the extra mile whether thats to ride the school bus or a positive call home or eating a meal with a student, can change their lives knowing a teacher thought they were worthy of their time.

What did you need the most when you started teaching?

A life preserver! Which, gratefully, is what our District PLC provided for me. They helped us navigate the challenges of being an enhancement teacher but also the challenge of having Admin/others who did not fully understand what takes place in the music room.

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

For me, the challenge is getting kids to think outside the box when they are so used to being required to stay within it. While it is a struggle and continues to be one, I try to give students ownership over their own creations by saying “Do you like it? Are you satisfied with it? Then I’m happy with it!”

How do you advocate for your program?

By being the A+ coordinator, I help create events that get students, teachers and their families excited about the Arts. That in turn gets them excited for our classes during the school day.

I am the PLC chair for the Elementary Music Teachers and my goal is to have a “Think Tank” that supports all of us in our own school to be the best teachers we can. We are also bringing back our County Honors Chorus which I am coordinating.

Finally, as a Lead Teacher in the district, I am working with our Middle/High School District Representative on ways to be purposeful in working together as a district Performing Arts PLC to build our programs from not only the bottom up but how we can support each other from the top down.

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

Take the time to get to know your students, staff and the community around your school.

  • Ask questions of your students that are not musical in nature
  • Attend PTO/PTA meetings and volunteer at their events
  • Send home or call home for celebrations not just discipline issues
  • Attend sports events and get to know the people who run those schedules
  • Get to know your EC/ESL/Speech/OT/ Guidance teachers

While it takes quite a bit of time and energy to accomplish, in the long run

  • Knowing your students and the area they live in will help you plan lessons that are relevant to them
  • Becoming part of the community will rally support around events you want to put on in the evening hours. v
  • Plus, The other support staff at your school can help troubleshoot or avoid future issues.

How do you build relationships with students and parents?

One of the ways I try to build relationships with my students is – to the best of my ability – that every time they come to my room, I take a moment to let each of them (including myself) “Ask me something, tell me something, play me something, or pass” meaning they get to ask me a question OR tell me a short story OR perform (play) a song/dance move/body percussion OR they can say “Pass”. I also try my best to treat them as individuals and never refuse to return a hug/high five or fist bump.

Parents – I try to be visible and available when we have a school event, not just concerts. I send positive notes or make positive phone calls when I can. When I do have to write notes or make calls about a student’s behavior, I try to make it a conversation rather than a lecture. You’d be surprised how much more receptive families can be when you ask them for help and ways to support their child rather than telling them their child did something wrong and that you hope they will fix it for next time.