When Sean Longstreet ’06 arrived at Walnut Park Middle School, he was assigned to teach choir and general music because the school didn’t own any instruments. Two years later, not only can students enroll in instrumental music classes and three levels of band, Longstreet has been named a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Teacher of the Year.
“The connection I make with the kids is the most profoundly rewarding part of my job,” Longstreet says. “The impact that music has on their lives is immeasurable, and I’m so proud when I see students develop confidence and the skills necessary to thrive as a young professional.”
To help build up the music program for his students, Longstreet applied for and received grants from Little Kids Rock and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Last August, Walnut Park Middle School held an assembly to celebrate the donation of instruments from the VH1 Save the Music grant. During the event, the middle school band played the new instruments, and pop musician Noah Cyrus performed and answered questions from the student audience.
Originally from Hemet, California, Longstreet earned a degree in music education from the University of Redlands. His desire to be a teacher started early—inspired by his own experiences in the public school system.
“When I was in middle school band, I realized there was something special about music education, and that many principles taught through music elegantly translate to valuable lessons in life and the development of strong human character,” he says. “I had always looked up to my music teachers and took note of their teaching methods. I was driven to teach.”
His passion was encouraged during his time at the U of R, where he studied both music education and jazz guitar. He says School of Music faculty members Katherine Hickey and Eddie Smith were especially influential.
“Professor Hickey inspired me to flip my view of music education upside down,” Longstreet says. “It’s often believed that more talented musicians should aspire to teach music to older students, but that’s not necessarily how it should be. Beginners should have access to the finest music educators available.”
Longstreet was named among 22 Teachers of the Year last month by LAUSD, the second largest district in the country, employing over 26,000 elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Around 1,000 teachers were nominated for the award.
Longstreet, who also has a master’s in instrumental conducting, himself continues to be an active musician in the Los Angeles community. “I spend most of my time making and teaching music,” he says. “That’s what brings me the most fulfillment.”