Classroom diversity is music to IRHS teacher’s ears

DAGSBORO — Chantalle Ashford is a songbird at heart who enjoys many genres of music.

“There is a picture of me when I was three, karaoking Whitney Houston. I still do karaoke doing Whitney Houston,” said Ms. Ashford. “My father raised me on Motown. We’d be in the car and he would be, ‘OK, which Supremes is this? Which Temptations is this? Who is singing lead? Who wrote this song? Was it Smokey (Robinson)?’ So now I love trivia, and music trivia is my favorite.”

Chantalle Ashford enjoys classroom diversity in her teaching positions at Indian River High School.

Ms. Ashford, a native of Dover, is in her fourth year on the instructional staff at Indian River High School. Her school day is one of diversity, encompassing music/choir, a creating writing class and special education.

“Since this is my fourth year, I have kind of gotten in the groove figuring out what the balance is, kind of balancing those things. And I love it because I get to use all my skills all day. I am not stuck doing this one thing and I get to do a lot of different things. And I get to connect with a lot of different kids in the building,” Ms. Ashford said. “The kind of kids you get to interact with in a classroom that you are pushing in special education is different from the kind of kids you interact with who chose to be in a chorus classroom. And that’s awesome because I want to work with all students.”

Interestingly, the 25-year-old Long Neck resident didn’t take the traditional route to the classroom.

“I did Teach for America, which is an alternative route teacher certification program. Because I decided like during my senior year, ‘Oh, I want to teach.’ I didn’t get an education degree. So, how do I do that? Teacher for America, it’s a nonprofit that works on getting highly-qualified college educated students to think about the education profession, especially in low income communities,” said Ms. Ashford.

“I knew I wanted to come back home to Delaware. When I was applying Delaware was one of the states. So, I get to come home. When I applied, I interviewed with Indian River and so this is where I am. I’ve been here the whole time,” she said.

In this week’s People to Meet spotlight: Chantalle Ashford.

Where were you born and raised?

“I was born in Dover. I grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, near Washington, right outside of D.C. Then I came back and attended high school at Dover High School. I was a Senator! I graduated in 2010.”

College?

“William & Mary. I graduated in 2014. I got my degree in psychology, and a minor in Africana Studies; I specialized in Black Studies.”

“And I just got my master’s Relay Graduate School of Education – Sept. 16. I actually got a baton as part of my graduation with my diploma.”

Growing up, what was your dream?

“I am the oldest child. So, I think it has a lot to do with what I want to do. Every time someone asked me, I went through a doctor phase. I had a real stethoscope. It had the metal and you could hear the heart beat. I thought it was so cool. And then I was like, ‘Oh, it’s too much school.’ Then it was, ‘I want to be a lawyer.’ Then realized that is also too much school.”

“All of those jobs, I wanted to be some kind of leader. I wanted to help people. And I wanted to work with people all the time. So that is why I studied psychology because it’s a way to figure out what other pathways are there. Which led me to teaching. Which I get to do all those things. Sometimes I am a little bit of a doctor. You have a headache? Sometimes, I am a lawyer, advocating for my students either within the classroom or outside the classroom. And I get to be a little bit of a psychologist. I get to talk with kids and share what is going on with their lives.

“I learn from my kids as much as I learn from my teachers, which is awesome.”

Crystal ball time: What do you see in your future?

“I want to stay in the education field. I think this has been my calling. There are lots of things that are possible in education that I see IR really trying to do and I see other places trying to do. I really think that Delaware can be one of the first places where we make education the equalizer that it should be. I want to be part of that movement, whether that is containing to be a strong classroom teacher, a principal or some kind of other school administrator role. I want to stay connected to a school building or buildings. I definitely want to lead in that kind of way, wherever life takes me in that. I am in a couple leadership programs right now where I am trying to grow my professional development. I love learning and if you stop learning then the kids stop learning, too, because you’re not learning anymore. I am always trying to push myself.”

Chantalle Ashford directs the mixed choir during Indian River High School’s multicultural festival.

Your students keep you in tune to today’s music?

“I have to listen to the pop and the rap in order to keep up. Because students try to think, ‘Oh, she doesn’t know anything, she is a teacher,’ I have to know that so I can relate but also so I can make connections in class when I am trying to teach things.”

Your background in music?

“I joined my church choir when I was a child. When I started going to school, third grade we started to have actual choir practice. I did Honors Choir in Maryland. Then I moved to Delaware. I didn’t do All-State until my senior year. But I did all the ensembles that were available to me at Dover High. I continued that trend in college.”

Your passion for choir and chorus?

“It is kind of multi-pronged. I think at first it is just to share my enthusiasm and joy. I think kids learn better when the person who is teaching them is enthusiastic and passionate about it. That part is easy because I love music. So, I am able to really infuse my lessons with that. The other side of it is sometimes kids aren’t going to continue this. They’ll do chorus in high school because they had an extra class and it seemed like it was fun. And they make some friends. And they will graduate and they’ll go do whatever they are going to do. Maybe they’ll go into the workforce. Maybe they’ll go to college. But I want the experience they have in this room not only be like, ‘Oh yeah, we sang some music, but I got to know people who were different from me. I understand how to work in a team. I know what my strengths are. I want them to walk away from this chorus class with some skills they can use outside, life skills. I want my students to have those life skills that they learned in here to translate out there. That is the goal: Have fun singing. Enjoy the music but also that other piece is there, too, kind of imbedded and kind of hidden.”

Free time: What do you like to do?

“I do like eating. And I am a big TV buff. I am definitely an English person. I love English and reading. I think the new form of that for people is watching television and watching movies. I love characters. One of my favorite TV shows right now is the Mindy Project. She is like this ridiculous person on TV. I am like I will never be this ridiculous person but I can escape into your life. When you get to be ridiculous, I get to laugh. Anything super dramatic and ridiculous is a nice way to get away from the real stresses of life.”

Got a Fun Fact?

“I once performed in high school my friend and I wrote a musical, a one-act musical and performed that musical at a French Festival in Wilmington. It was a play within a play about a high school group of kids putting on a play called Stage Left of Random. That was fun. The song is still stuck in my head.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.