Shawna E. Longo, a music teacher and arts integration and STEAM specialist at Durban Avenue School in Hopatcong, New Jersey, and the 2021-2022 Sussex County Teacher of the Year, recently sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with Ray Pinney, director of county activities and member engagement with the New Jersey School Boards Association, in the latest episode of Education Matters.

In a segment titled “Successfully Integrating Music into the STEM Curriculum,” Longo shares how she made the leap from being a secondary and middle school teacher to teaching elementary students, how she takes an integrative approach to weaving music and arts education into science and math instruction and much more.

During the interview, she shares that she’s been teaching for 21 years and has worn numerous hats during that time, including as an administrator. She is also a board member with the Morris Plains Board of Education in Morris County and a mother who leverages her broad experience to drive her instructional practice.

One of the reasons she chose to teach younger students after a career helping high schoolers and middle schoolers is that it gave her the chance to provide children with a solid foundation in music and the arts – and to integrate it with other subjects, she said.

“I feel like a pied piper every day,” she said. “It is wonderful to sing and dance and provide them with experiences that really make learning come alive.”

She noted, “I feel the more we connect our material across content, the more it becomes alive for them, the more they can see the why … and how it impacts other things.”

In integrating music and the arts with what students are learning in math and science, she stressed that she looks for “natural connections.” During the interview, she shared some examples with Pinney.

Longo is so beloved in her community that Michael Francis, mayor of Hopatcong, declared Feb. 3 as Shawna Longo Day. Learn more about the proclamation.