top of page

Volunteering to Learn, Part Four

In part four of my first blog series Volunteering to Learn, I will introduce you to Mrs. Karyl Elton. Like all teachers, she absolutely loved her craft, but what set her apart was her ability to develop a community within her high school classroom.



Being the choral director at Leesburg High School, Mrs. Karyl Elton worked with students of many grade levels. She believed that all students could learn to sing, which is why she never turned a student away from her class. All of her choral members learned to believe in themselves regardless of their natural ability. Mrs. Elton may not have called it growth mindset at the time, but she had confidence in her students’ ability to fulfill their potential.

Mrs. Elton dedicated many extra hours to the Leesburg choir, which made a tremendous impact, but she also was deliberate in creating a community of students. During the winter holidays, the choir would perform for community organizations, churches, and Disney hotels. Developing a student’s belief in his singing ability did not happen overnight. The bond that developed among Mrs. Elton’s students grew from these unique experiences, her love of teaching, and pride in their accomplishments. The many hours that were spent driving to a performance or working one-on-one to develop a student’s ability were opportunities for Mrs. Elton to learn more about her students. The relationships that were built strengthened the student’s confidence in themselves and the choir as a whole.

Mrs. Elton’s persistent attitude led the choral program to become one of the best in the state. Students regularly received Superior ratings at district and state evaluations. Mrs. Elton not only taught her students that you can learn to sing, but taught me that if students can learn to sing, then they most certainly can learn to do math.


In reflection of my years of volunteering in classrooms and the skills I observed, I now realize that what impacted my teaching practice most was learning how to develop unbreakable relationships in the classroom.

Mrs. Kertz did so with positive reinforcement and differentiated instruction in elementary school.

Ms. Whitaker tapped into her middle school students’ interests to build a collaborative environment for learning.

Mrs. Elton built a community in high school that supported and welcomed all students because even singing can be taught.

A dear friend and colleague once told me “Students do not really care to know until they know you care.” I couldn’t agree more!


Join in next week to #LEARNWITHME about Florida Gulf Coast University's pre-service teachers' opportunities as they prepare to become the next generation of teachers.

bottom of page