Chris Kaflik knows the power of being a student-centered educator because he admits that at the beginning of his career, he wasn’t one. “If you are not student-centered, you might be in education for the wrong reason,” he said. “The earliest years of my teaching — in drum corps, high school marching bands, etc. — was not as focused on the students. It was more about me. I learned from that pretty quickly.”
Kaflik also stresses the importance of remembering how you felt as a high school student and what you thought about certain topics. “I was not always the most talented student in my high school, college ensembles or drum corps. I struggled in some areas,” Kaflik recalled. “Remembering how it felt to overcome certain struggles and now recognizing that in my current students has helped my teaching and my relationships with my students.”
How he connects with students at Brownsburg High School is definitely one of his strengths. In one of his “40 Under 40” nomination letters, a colleague wrote, “Instead of directionless teaching, Chris has added intention behind his teaching and helped students understand why they do what they do. He has been able to guide students to improve themselves as people first before improving as a musician.” In another nomination letter, a student described Kaflik as “awesome — a first-round draft pick for sure!”
When Kaflik started at Brownsburg, one area he focused on was recruitment and retention. “We want to give students music that will challenge them and stretch their abilities, but we also make sure they are going to feel like rock stars when it comes to performance,” he said. “In marching band, I think the design is a big factor in recruitment and retention. We always want to do something unique and ‘cool’ that will intrigue middle school students, non-band high school students and any audience member to say, ‘I want to be a part of that.’”
Winning competitions isn’t everything, but in four years, Kaflik has taken Browsburg to the Indiana State Finals and the Bands of America Grand Nationals. “To say it was a turnaround would be an understatement,” a colleague wrote in another nomination letter. “Chris would be quick in giving the credit to a lot of other people, but without his leadership, it would not have happened.”
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