Lewisville Elementary teacher appreciates path he’s taken
Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 8:24 pm
Lisa O'Donnell/Winston-Salem Journal
LEWISVILLE — Brandon Noftle is back in the classrooms and hallways of Lewisville Elementary School, the place where his dream of becoming a teacher first took shape.
Noftle is in his second year teaching music at the school, showing kids how to keep rhythm and carry a melody, introducing them to such instruments as the piano and ukulele, and conducting them in annual pageants.
A Lewisville native, Noftle attended the school and later graduated from West Forsyth High School. He has a degree in music education from UNC Greensboro. Noftle is also a magician, who performed at birthday parties and a local restaurant for years.
He and his wife, Robyn, have been married for nearly two years.
Q: What was like it coming back to Lewisville Elementary to teach?
A: It’s nice to come back to familiar surroundings. I was here on this stage doing music class 14 years ago and the teacher I replaced was my teacher, Miss (Celia) Leal. A lot of the teachers I had are still here, and they’re extremely helpful. The kids here are like me. I grew up down the road. They’re similar to the way I was when I was a kid, which is convenient.
Q: Where did you get your love of music?
A: My parents signed me up for piano when I was in second or third grade. I also did saxophone lessons. My older brother was in music. My biggest moment that made me love music was in high school, with all those outlets. You had marching band, orchestra. I was in a saxophone quartet in high school. My dad was in a rock ’n’ roll band when I was little, so I thought that was really cool.
Q: Did you have ambitions to play professionally or did you always want to go into education?
A: As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher. I actually wanted to be a kindergarten teacher when I was in kindergarten. I had a teacher here, Mr. (Alan) Snow, and he changed everything. When I saw him, I saw what a teacher could be. It was eye-opening, then I got into high school and thought, “OK, teaching music is what I want to do.”
Q: What was it about teaching that appealed to you?
A: I saw what good teachers did for me. Mr. Snow, for instance, he invested in every student in this school and it was so cool for him to know something about me, like ask me about my cats. It meant everything to me as a kid. When I was a small child, I had these teachers who were invested in me and I thought, “I could do that. What a great profession.” If I could be the Mr. Snow to a select few, that would mean everything.
Q: Do you like this age group, or do you aspire to teach at higher grades?
A: I love the younger age. They’re more willing to be funny and take chances, which is unbelievably awesome. In one day, you have 6 year olds to 11 year olds, and every year is so different as opposed to high school where the difference between 11 th - and 12 th -graders is not that big of a deal. But the difference between a kindergartener and second-grader is huge. I love to be silly with them.
Q: Tell me about your background in magic.
A: I’ll credit Mr. Snow again. That was a reward. So if the class was good after a four-day rotation, Mr. Snow would reward us with a magic trick. So I started doing that. I got a couple kits. My neighbor had a birthday party and asked me to perform. She gave me $20. It went from there, and I started getting requests for birthday parties. In high school, I got a job doing magic at Moe’s Southwestern Grill and worked there for seven years, and that paid for college. When I started teaching here, I thought, why not bring it here as a reward? It works well with the younger kids. So if there is a kindergartener who is shy, I’ll get them up here on stage and have them do a trick and give all the credit to the little kid. And for that kid, it changes everything. They come back in class and they open up. It helps kids enjoy the school day. I like to give them moments where they think, “Oh, I didn’t know we were doing that today.”
Q: Music is often among the first programs to be cut from education budgets. What is your argument for keeping them?
A: I think music offers so many other characteristics, not just notes on a page. I think it teaches teamwork. You’re only as good as the person who is playing the worst, in theory. Kids will help out a neighbor because they’re all playing together. It’s not like a math test. Everyone gets the same score because we’re playing as a group. Emotional intelligence is just as important as academics. Kids need to know how to express themselves in an appropriate manner, and music is the perfect way. I’ve seen kids, first-hand, when they play a minor note and when they get it and they can see that it’s sad, their eyes light up. I think kids often limit themselves, and music is a great way to see, “Oh my gosh. I can play ukulele. I had no idea I could do that.” And they may never have had the opportunity to do that. But when they try and succeed, they realize limiting themselves is out of that question.