Arts Education
1:55 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

How An Arts Program Is Changing A School's Culture

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Michael Kamen as the director of the the film, Mr. Holland's Opus. He in fact is the composer who wrote the film score.

Leslie Augustin, 13, an eighth-grade student in the guitar class, gets individual attention from Jonathan De Leon, founder of the guitar program at the school.
Leslie Augustin, 13, an eighth-grade student in the guitar class, gets individual attention from Jonathan De Leon, founder of the guitar program at the school.
Credit Daniel Bock / Miami Herald

When Jonathan De Leon left his home state of New Jersey to teach at North Miami Middle School in 2007, he immediately saw possibility — both in the school and the students.

A post-graduate teaching job in an affluent neighborhood in Philadelphia quickly convinced De Leon that North Miami Middle — persistently a low-achieving school, according to the Education Transformation Office, an arm of Miami-Dade Schools that supports targeted schools — was the place he could make a significant impact.

When he arrived, De Leon says he remembers a “nonexistent” music program with no instrumental electives and an over-enrolled chorus class, the only option available.

“I started here in 2007 as a social studies teacher and it was both challenging and wonderful,” said De Leon, 28. “Teaching history was great, but my passion has always been music.”

That passion gave impetus to what administrators, teachers and students at the school are calling a culture change: a transformation that started with the music program.

Read more at MiamiHerald.com.