Where They’re Headed: Grace Coberly ’21

The music and linguistics double major will teach elementary music this fall at Shrewsbury Montessori School.

Grace Coberly ’21 will begin work as Shrewsbury Montessori School’s (SMS) music teacher this fall. Coberly knew they wanted to teach music, but a virtual visit to the school this past spring confirmed they were interested, specifically, in teaching younger students.  

“After a couple Zoom demo lessons at SMS— an exploration of rhythm using dinner foods and a chaotic live performance of ‘Yellow Submarine’ — I was sold on elementary[-age students]”, said the music and linguistics double major. “Their curiosity and enthusiasm for just about everything is an absolute joy to be around.”

Coberly will teach music theory and music appreciation to about 135 kids in classes spanning pre-K to grade 6. Though they would normally teach recorder and ukulele and run a student choir, those classes will depend on COVID-19 health guidelines. 

“Music classrooms in particular are still very, very far from normal,” they said. “I am hopeful, though, that my first year of teaching will challenge me in productive ways that allow me to grow as an educator and an advocate for my students.”

In addition to their teaching role, they will learn about the general operations of a Montessori school by assisting other faculty and staff. 

“Of course I’m looking forward to the teaching itself, but I’m also excited about working with the rest of the faculty and staff at SMS,” they said. “In all of my interactions with the community so far, I’ve been met with nothing but encouragement, honesty, and support. I can’t think of a better environment in which to start my teaching career.”

An independent study with Assistant Professor of Music Nate Zullinger on conducting and a “Praxis Independent Study” on music education with Bryn Mawr Education Professor Alice Lesnick helped prepare Coberly for this next chapter. Their two senior theses also explored children’s musicality. 

“My linguistics thesis discussed the socializing potential of children’s clapping games through a sociolinguistic framework, and my music thesis analyzed three music teaching approaches—Orff Schulwerk, the Kodály concept, and El Sistema—as vehicles for social education,” they said. “I’m hopeful that my research in both areas will inform my own teaching style.”

They also found practical experience in the Bi-Co. Coberly led the Mainliners a cappella for a year, worked as a musical assistant and led small groups for the Bi-Co Chamber Singers, and connected with younger students during their independent study and Hurford Center internship. 

“All I know is that I want to teach music, and that I want to teach it well,” they said, “in a way that inspires and empowers my students to take music into their own hands.” 

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.