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Virginia Journal of Education


Ten Minutes With...

Will Cooke

Position:  Director of choirs and jazz combo, instructor of piano and music theory
School system:  Charlottesville    
Years worked in education:  14

What is a typical school day like for you?
I get up at 5 a.m. for coffee, a crossword or two and the gym before arriving at school by 7:45. Then, it’s go, go, go until the last bell rings. That’s the way I like it! About once or twice a week my day will include an after-school rehearsal to help students work on their vocal technique or master the music we’re learning.

What do you like about your job?
I love my students, even the ones I don’t teach. (I call them my “hallway students.”) I strongly believe that every child at Charlottesville High School belongs to me, whether they take one of my classes or not. I learn so much from them and their different perspectives. Education is not a one-way street. Teachers can learn something every day. You just have to be open to it.

What is hard about your job?
Nothing, really. I could do without some of the paperwork and pre-testing, testing and re-testing which, from time to time, I have to proctor. Other than those two things, it’s great! I think it’s easy to do what you love to do.

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?
I’d have to say that some of my most fun and memorable moments happened when I taught elementary school. They’re actually more wonderful than funny. I’m referring to how children will give you their take on a situation, straight up, on the spot, no holds barred, using simple, direct language to express it. There are many stories to tell, but they all come down to two things adults, especially teachers, need to remember—keep it simple and keep it real!

I remember one time I was walking a class back to their room after their music class with me when we met a gentleman in the hallway who was substituting for the day. He wasn’t very tall, had very dark skin and quite possibly the brightest, whitest, fullest “Fu Manchu”-style mustache I have ever seen.  Seriously, it looked like the St. Louis Arch! After we passed him, one of my students tugged at my sleeve and said, “Mr. Cooke, that man had his beard on upside down!” After composing myself, I know, he’s right. Based upon what my second grader knew it did look like an upside-down beard. Aside from the fact that this story still makes me laugh over 10 years later, it also reminds me to consciously look at my students with “new eyes” from time to time.  It helps me to help them learn in more creative and interesting ways.

How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
First and foremost, being a VEA member has given me a great network of friends throughout the state. Secondly, it gives me peace of mind. Should I ever need assistance of any kind, professional or personal, I know the VEA will be there to help me with whatever it is.



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