New orchestra teacher joins district, adjusts to school during pandemic

Students rehearse with orchestra teacher, Steven Spangler for the first time in person. (Photo by Claire MacDonald)

The district hired a new orchestra teacher, Steven Spangler, to replace long-term substitute teacher Rachel Orthin in late June as a full-time teacher at the school.

Principal Kristin Robbins said the search for an orchestra teacher began later than usual. Normally, the search would begin in May, she explained, but at that time the district was not sure if school would be in person at all.

The hiring process began with 18 to 20 candidates and was slimmed down to four finalists, Robbins said. She explained that the district gave candidates an option to interview in person or virtually due to COVID-19 and, as a precaution, there were fewer interview committee members present at the interview. While a handful of students would typically be involved in the interviewing committee, that was not possible this year, Robbins said.

Once the four finalists were chosen, Robbins said, she and the assistant principal, or another district administrator, met to compare the finalists’ strengths and areas of improvement to then make a  decision.

Despite having a couple of other very talented candidates, Robbins said, Spangler rose above the rest in his unique experiences around building programs and providing opportunities.

“There were these pieces that he was bringing…a real love of students and love of music and wanting to instill that in kids…that may not be successful in a traditional school environment,” Robbins said.

Spangler opted to be interviewed virtually and said he felt the hiring process was very smooth.

“I found it very refreshing to see how many people were involved in the interview process,” Spangler said. “In my past experience, there have only ever been two or three individuals at a time in an interview. This demonstrated the level of care and consideration that Bexley has when hiring new teachers.”

As a new teacher adjusting to a school in a time of virtual learning, Spangler said that he has had to overcome some difficulties, with the most challenging aspect being keeping students engaged at all times. To overcome this, Spangler said, he has begun using apps such as Flipgrid to keep students accountable for their work and to focus on one student at a time.

Spangler also said that was especially difficult as a new teacher to make a connection with students while online. During hybrid learning, Spangler is running his class as if everyone is in the classroom so online students can participate as though they were in the room.

The orchestra has plans for performances this year, Spangler said. Following the CDC and Ohio Department of Health guidelines, Spangler said that though a small audience is permitted, he will be cautious about the attendance number. He explained that he plans to stream performances for those not able to attend.

Senior Leah Tadese, a violinist in the orchestra, said that the possibility of performances is exciting because concerts are a great opportunity to display work in front of parents and friends.

“Concerts are one of the major things I look forward to, especially as a senior,” Tadese said.

Despite the difficulties COVID-19 has presented, Spangler said that he has several hopes for the orchestra this year.

“I hope that we challenge ourselves to reach for greatness, never settle for mediocrity, and have fun on our journey to great music performances,” Spangler said.