From Michigan to McNary: New band teacher felt school was ‘perfect fit’

Elizabeth Hering comes from across the country to become McNary’s newest band teacher.

When COVID-19 hit, many of us changed our lives in different ways, whether it be picking up a new hobby or starting a new job. McNary High School’s new band teacher, Elizabeth Hering, made a more drastic change, deciding to quit her job in Michigan after 21 years and moving to Oregon after feeling like she needed to do something new.

“I was at a transitional phase of my life. The pandemic had kind of upended everything and I felt like that it had to be the year that I made a change,” Hering said.

Hering started looking at available jobs in Michigan and Oregon, where she discovered that McNary High School was looking for a new band teacher. After looking more into the position, she felt it would be the perfect fit.

“I see the way the kids, when they spend four years in band, develop and grow into adults. A lot of that is affected by the life skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills and the bonding and unity that are achieved in a music classroom. It seems like at McNary, that’s a school-wide culture, so I’m really excited to be at a school that values this kind of community, unity and engagement for the kids,” Hering said.

McNary High School encourages students to be involved in activities outside of academics, with many different sports and clubs being offered. Hering enjoyed seeing students engaged in the community and felt that students who aren’t as involved often end up missing on a lot of opportunities.

The switch from Michigan to Oregon, however, presented some issues for the marching band. The marching band begins practicing in May or June, but didn’t actually start until August. Hering didn’t have a chance to even look at the music until she made the full switch to Oregon.

The first football game was on Sept. 3rd, which meant that students had to work quickly to learn all the music in time. In just a few weeks, they managed to learn everything and perform.

Another issue has been COVID restrictions. Students are social distancing in the band room and must have a bell cover over their instruments, which can alter the sound of the instruments.

“We can’t get the dynamic that we would without the bell covers and on certain woodwind instruments, there’s notes that become really difficult to play, but the safety factor makes it worth it,” Hering said.

Hering noted that she will continue to follow the COVID guidelines and adjust the students’ sound accordingly.

Through all the challenges so far, Hering’s biggest priority is making a comfortable and safe environment for her students.

“In my classes, it’s very important that it’s a safe place for the kids. They have to be somewhat emotionally vulnerable to be able to play music in front of each other,” Hering said. “We need to build that relationship between the kids and then also between myself and the kids so that they can feel safe to play, learn and to grow as musicians in the class.”