LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Margaret Callaghan

Position: Music Teacher/ Chorus Director
School: Blanchard Memorial School
School District: Acton-Boxborough Regional School District
City, State: Boxborough, MA

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Margaret Callaghan was nominated by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

Ms. Callaghan changes the lives of her students every day in her work as a music teacher and chorus director for Blanchard Memorial School. She teaches students in all grades, including students from separate programs who may have social or emotional challenges. Her job can be difficult, but she teaches with grace, dignity and joy. The chorus program is popular among many students and includes grades four, five, and six.

Ms. Callaghan, or Margie, as she is affectionately called by her peers, has the ability to make connections with children of all ages and abilities. She gives 100% of herself to her role as music teacher, chorus director, collaborator and colleague. She is always fair and believes in giving children what they need to find joy and success. Ms. Callaghan treats all students with respect and inspires those around her to do the same. She provides examples of how to treat others with respect and dignity every day.  

In terms of her music curriculum, Ms. Callaghan frequently teaches them songs about the world and how to be an active musician. She ensures that what she teaches her students is appropriate, interesting and challenging. It is important for students to perform songs that showcase their abilities rather than their appearance. Ms. Callaghan wants to provide an experience that allows children to continue their music throughout their educational career and beyond.

For her, participation in chorus is about singing together, creating music as a group of musicians, and working together as a team. She holds high standards and expectations for her chorus members. Ms. Callaghan tries to give students as much choice as possible. This is particularly evident in the sixth grade song-sharing project. In this project, she integrates technology via a powerpoint presentation, in which the students must talk about the song, research the musicians, and relate the song to the fundamentals that they have learned in music class in terms of music, rhythm, and melody.

Ms. Callaghan engages students and encourages them to ask questions.

"Her instruction seems similar to an athletic coach giving feedback to her players during practice, with a constant tweaking of understanding and performance," the nominator said. "She stresses the importance of discussing the music, which helps students feel engaged and interested. She establishes a careful balance between the students' desire to have a good time, individual abilities, and appreciation of music."

For Ms. Callaghan, all of the learning in her class and chorus comes from the songs. She spends countless hours researching other choral directors and picks the songs that would work best for her chorus. Ms. Callaghan is invested in the performances and her students because she gets excited about the music. Her passion for music and love for her students translates in everything she does.

In order to make the program fun and interesting, she chooses pieces that makes sense from the audience's perspective as well.

"Margie will not allow 'fluff' songs in her program because she feels that it is disrespectful for the children and their abilities," the nominator said. "She has found that there is a wealth of great music available if people take the time to find it. She states that it is similar to nutrition--you don't let your kids eat candy all the time. You have to eat vegetables too. Margie finds enjoyable and inspiring music every year that showcases her students’ abilities."

"I asked Margie what she felt the effect of her repertoire of music had on the students," the nominator continued. "She believes students are empowered. They feel pride in accomplishing something that they couldn't do on their own. They develop resilience and persistence and realize the importance of dedication and commitment to something. She feels that she stretches the students to reach that point in the zone of proximal development and say to themselves, 'Wow! I can't believe I did that.'"  

Ms. Callaghan strives to achieve a balance of accepting all students and all abilities, creating a culture where everyone is constantly working to improve. When students are in performance mode, Ms. Callaghan teaches them to take on the posture and attitude of "I am a performer and this is important." She challenges students, finds their strengths and does not accept poor performances. She places the ownership of the singing on the students and directly discusses their efforts. 

On the other hand, Ms. Callaghan stresses that learning new songs and gaining new abilities require mistakes. She does not stress the concept of perfection for her students. Mistakes are going to be made regardless. She develops students’ abilities to acknowledge their mistakes, understand what went wrong, and start over.

Currently, there are 70 students in the chorus program, and all who wish to have a solo are welcome to put their name in a hat. Ms. Callaghan then draws the names and announces the soloist.

"In one memorable year, there was a sixth grade girl who was cognitively delayed and had a speech impediment," the nominator said. "Her name was drawn and she performed the solo. I was so proud to watch her perform, knowing that this may be the last time the student could shine on stage."

"Margie’s approach to teaching music and directing chorus, embodies all the values that we could want," the nominator said. "She helps develop students’ perseverance in challenging tasks, team work, acceptance of those around them and how a community can make a difference. Margie is a LifeChanger within the Blanchard community."

Comments (21)

Linda potter Posted over a year ago

I taught along side of Margie for several years as a music teacher. This honor is well deserved!

Kelly Graeber Posted over a year ago

Margie is not only a teacher of children, but of teachers. I was fortunate to be her student at the Kodaly Music Institute and her class inspired me to completely relearn/ revamp the way I teach. I am forever grateful. Thank you, Margie!

Karen Flaherty Posted over a year ago

Margie is an inspiring and amazing music teacher who is admired by all! She is exemplary in all areas, and our Blanchard School Community is so fortunate to have her! She is able to teach All students, and her enthusiasm and kindness is contagious! Margie is very deserving of this nomination.

Susan Spencer Posted over a year ago

Margie's success as a teacher is reflected in the welcome she extends to all of her students from the minute they walk into the music room. She has the wonderful ability to teach to ALL students, no matter what their skill level or what kind of learner they are. Each student is made to feel important and that they have a contribution to make in every music class. Margie is a kind, caring, and very talented musician and teacher, and is very much deserving of this nomination.

Jennifer Grossman Posted over a year ago

I am the lucky one to have worked with Margie at her first job at South Lawrence East School in Lawrence, MA. As a first year teacher in 1998, Margie was full of enthusiasm and high expectations. She worked hard to showcase the talents of her students. Being in an urban school district this was not easy, but I do believe it was this job that set her on her path of making people realize the impact music can have in everyone’s life. Margie was a life changer to those first students she taught and clearly, this is something that has not changed. She is passionate about teaching music and leading her students to reach their highest potential. Margie an amazing,inspiring music teacher, my best friend since South Lawrence East, and indeed a life changer.

Tara Livolsi Posted over a year ago

I have worked with Margie for over 5 years. At first, I was supporting a kindergarten student with significant learning and emotional issues. I attended all music classes with the student and his class. Each time we entered the room- music literally filled the air. She welcomed each student with genuine happiness. My student, who was often reluctant to participate in many typical kindergarten routines - participated in Margie's wonderful class. Of course, it did not start out that way, at first, he would observe. He did not jump right in with the other students. He watched. He watched the other children sing, dance, place instruments, jump to the beat, laugh, play and learn. He watched Margie has she treated each of his classmates with a gentle and loving hand. In only a short amount of time, my student knew he was "safe." He slowly entered the circle of kids playing a music game. He began to clap and skip ...soon came the smile and shortly after that, not only did he fully participate in all activities, he did so with laughter and visible joy! It was amazing. His whole attitude and approach to learning changed. He did not “stand out” as being different. He looked and acted just like his peers. He had not worry, no fear- just joy. Amazing. Almost 6 years have passed. My role has changed, but I will never forget the way my student's face looked while he was with Margie. What a wonderful gift she gave him.

Mr. Robert Guilmette Posted over a year ago

I am the physical educator at Blanchard Elementary School. I have been working with Mrs. Callahan at Blanchard Elementary School for sixteen years. I have witnessed the dedication Mrs. Callahan has demonstrated in her job as music teacher and choral director at Blanchard Elementary School. Mrs. Callahan has as many as 100 students in her chorus group. The chorus group that Mrs. Callahan directs performs two concerts a year one in the winter and one in the spring and the spring. The students sing so wonderful at the concerts under Margie's direction. It is always a pleasure to hear the chorus. Mrs. Callahan practices with her chorus groups either before school or after school in the gymnasium often so I see Mrs. Callahan instruct her chorus groups. She expects a lot out her chorus members but is also full of praise for their efforts. The students can't wait to get to fourth grade so they can be in the chorus. Mrs. Callahan wants her students to learn but also to gain an appreciation for music. Mrs. Callahan makes her classes fun for her students so they will love music class. We have bee very lucky to have Mrs. Callahan as our music teacher and chorus director at Blanchard Elementary School. I appreciate having Mrs. Callahan as colleague. Sincerely, Mr. Guilmette physical education teacher Blanchard Memorial School

Peggy Harvey Posted over a year ago

I consider myself lucky to have worked and collaborated with such a talented, passionate, and kind educator. I would feel even luckier if I could have had a music teacher like Margie when I was in elementary school myself. She has a knack for being innovative in her teaching while staying true to her mission of instilling a love of music in all children. Margie is exceedingly patient with her students and dedicated to helping all of them engage joyfully with music. She is a true professional and a cherished colleague.

Dr. Curtis A. Bates Posted over a year ago

Research shows that the single most powerful driver of positive student performance is the teacher. As Ms. Callaghan's former supervisor, I found her to be a passionate educator who truly loves her craft and is drawn to do all she can to inspire and cultivate the potential of the young people who come into her classroom everyday. Ms. Callaghan is a "powerful driver" for positive student performance. As a music educator, Ms. Callaghan helps her students discover their creativity and builds their vocal and instrumental skills. She devises unique curricula for each grade level (K-6) with a range from history of music to vocal or instrumental performance and movement. Margie oversees the Blanchard Memorial School's chorus program, arranges concerts for students to display their musical talents for family, other students, parents/guardians and community members. All with the focus of promoting each student's success as a musician, in their own right. Ms. Callaghan provides an inclusive educational setting that addresses the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. The unique and professional teaching strategies she utilizes contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment where students feel equally valued and allows them to be risk-takers in experimenting with music and movement. Ms. Callaghan is an outstanding educator who has an engaging personality, possesses a deep knowledge of music curriculum and classroom management, and has high expectations for all students to attain their personal best. She provides her students with clear objectives and expectations, is a good listener, provides constructive and motivating feedback, and works extremely hard to develop a sense of community by cultivating trust with open and honest dialogue. You will always observe active student engagement, laughter, collaboration and support within her classroom. For many students, the music classroom is an environment that equips them with the foundational abilities to learn and builds self-esteem. Music education helps students to develop capacities, skills and knowledge essential for lifelong success. Through Ms. Callaghan's dedication and passion for sharing the love of music, she provides students the opportunity to access unique ways of knowing and displaying their knowledge. Research shows that music draws on the multiple intelligences and accommodates a variety of learning styles. Ms. Callaghan's music classroom transforms how some students are perceived by others, revealing abilities in students previously unrecognized by others. Ms. Callaghan is a LifeChanger for may students.

Connie Long Posted over a year ago

Our school is a “musical school,” walking in the halls at Blanchard before and after school, you can always hear music being created. Margie is a strong advocate for all the music programs at our school. She is teaching our students the foundation for a life of musical knowledge and appreciation. I wish I had had a music teacher like her. As a colleague, Margie is a role model for the power of believing in one’s self and one’s convictions. Congrats!

Vidya Sampathkumar Posted over a year ago

Margie is a warm and generous person. In the short time I've known her I've found that she is an amazing human being. She is a bundle of so much positive energy. One may think in her profession that is a must, so what's the big deal? Only she is like that 24/7. She's not only a brilliant teacher, but an empathetic and caring friend/coworker.Always inspiring and encouraging you to do your best. After you spend the 45 minutes in her music class, you will come out feeling "Aah, everything is going to be alright!" Blanchard is truly blessed to have LifeChanger -Margie Callahan.

Eileen Barnett Posted over a year ago

I am happy to say that Margie is part of our "Specialist Team." As the visual arts teacher, she and I both agree that we should not be "special." Art and Music should be part of the overall curriculum just like math, social studies, science, and reading. That said, we still are "special" and I am proud to call her my trusted colleague and friend. Margie is an outstanding teacher! I know this as a fact because we both teach ALL the students, over 500, and many, many students, in all grade levels, argue over whether Art or Music is their favorite. She and I have collaborated on many occasions and she is always willing to try something new. Once we worked together having the students listen to different types of music, then use a variety of art materials (paint, brushes, ink pads, pencils, markers) to illustrate the sounds they heard. A fun and exciting way to integrate the way music "looks." I love watching Margie teach in her classroom. The students are singing, dancing, playing instruments, learning about different types of music and trying to figure out what the "secret song" is. Watching her conduct her beloved chorus is a sight to behold. She can hold the attention of 50, 60, or 70 elementary school children and they sing beautifully! It is extremely challenging as a teacher in a public elementary school to teach a broad spectrum of students and be successful. Margie cares deeply for her students and wants them all to love the sounds of music just as much as she does. During our community meeting I always like to stand next to Margie so I can listen to her sing the National Anthem. Her voice is beautiful. Margie's enthusiastic love of music and teaching is inspiring. A "LIfe Changer?" Most definitely...for her students and those lucky enough to work with her.

Susie Petrov Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of working closely with Margie at the Kodály Music Institute for almost 20 years. I will never forget her welcoming presence and wonderful musicianship as she taught a class of adults choir-directing skills. That reminder helps me in my own work as a K-5 music teacher. I am thrilled that Margie has received this nomination for you never know when a musical moment will produce a life-long change in a student or a colleague!

Jonathan Rappaport Posted over a year ago

I have known Margie as a professional colleague for nearly two decades. She is an amazing musician and teacher and human being, and I think incredibly deserving of this recognition. In addition to her work as a public school teacher, Margie has taught at and been the director of the Kodaly Music summer institute, a teacher-training program that she herself was a student many years ago. Through this work, she has helped train countless other teachers to be outstanding educators also. This impact as affected tens of thousands of students across Massachusetts and the rest of the USA. Margie is definitely a LifeChanger in so many ways!

Kristen Kilcommins Posted over a year ago

Margie’s music class is something my Kindy children look forward to each week. They love to sing and move to new and familiar songs, practice rhythm with instruments, guess the Secret Song, and have lots of fun! Margie’s classroom management and attention to giving all children what they need & deserve is exemplary. She is always kind and fair. Children in my class often find stories in my classroom library with songs and music printed in them. With excitement they bring these songs to music class so Mrs. Callaghan can play the piano for them. Margie never disappoints the group. As a colleague of Margie’s, I feel fortunate to have her in my community. Margie models kindness, generosity, fairness, expertise and following your passion in her roles at Blanchard. She is a rare find and a true gem.

Lori McCormick Posted over a year ago

I remember going to my Uncle Ed's apartment when i was young and he was a math teacher at the time. He is Margie's father i believe my love for math came from him, he always made us kids feel so important and that education was the key to success. He would play music for us that we hadn't heard before, Ann's it was so wonderful. All of my siblings love all kinds of music and i know that our love for music comes from our upbringing and how important music is to all of us to this day. I am so very proud of Margie and she derives this honor more than anyone i know. Thank you so much for honoring her achievements Love Lori

Gail Kessler-Walsh Posted over a year ago

I am lucky to work across the hall from Margie. She is patient, positive, inclusive, imaginative, talented and well loved by all students and staff. So many mornings she quietly plays the piano so beautifully I usually think it is a recording. Margie exposes students to music from around the world. She teaches students about cultures and people from all corners on the planet. As a specialist, Margie teaches all students pre-k through 6th graders. She skillfully handles behavioral issues with grace and ease. We are all lucky to have such a kind, respectful, and positive music educator in our Blanchard community!

Jennifer Posted over a year ago

Margie has always loved music and has a wonderful spirit!

Linda McCormick Posted over a year ago

Margie has true passion for life, family and her students. Her passion comes through in the music and how she teaches her students. She is definitely worth of this award.

Lauren Grady Posted over a year ago

I could not have stated as clearly as this nomination but wholeheartedly agree. Students that don’t always feel succinct the classroom thrive in her classroom. Margie teaches the whole child. She collaborates wonderfully with the classroom teachers to make sure the students get what they need. She is an amazing teacher, peer, and friend!

Lisa Rhea Posted over a year ago

Margie does all these wonderful things for students while taking care of her family. She cares for her husband, mother, and challenged sister. I am sure her loving and supportive classroom manner is a direct result of the lovely way she was raised. Margie continues to return the love and guidance she learned growing up and transfers that loving spirit to her students. I believe she is a LifeChanger.