Welcome to episode eleven of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. Today our guest is the cheerful and talented music and reading teacher Mrs. Barbara Shidler.
Mrs. Shidler is known to every student that attends Canyon Elementary School. She is fun and upbeat and is a living example of making a career out of doing what you love. She is passionate about teaching and beyond the curriculum, she strives to help her kids learn lessons that will help them in life as well as in school.
My son has been a member of Mrs. Shidler’s choir for the past three years and absolutely loves her. I think it is a fair assumption to make for any student that has had the honor of working with Barbara. She makes music and learning fun, and gives the kids opportunities to shine.
Click the link above to listen to the podcast.
Barbara grew up in Boise, Idaho. She grew up in a family with loving parents. Her father had a structural engineering firm, and was especially known for his integrity. He was sometimes called on to be an expert witness in trials because they knew his testimony could not be bought.
After high school, she attended Ricks College in Rexburg. From Ricks, she transferred to Utah State University in Logan, UT for a quarter.
She was then called on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to France. Her area was then part of the Geneva Switzerland mission, but is now the Lyon France mission. She served there for eighteen months, then returned to Logan and graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Barbara’s Career in Education Started with PTA
After finishing her education, Barbara married Ken Shidler, a Utah native, and settled in Cache Valley. She spent about five years as a stay at home mom, and then about ten years as a volunteer for the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). From there she took on several projects with Hyrum City in addition to her PTA volunteer work.
When it became economically necessary for her to work outside the home, she went to work for Canyon Elementary School. She had previously volunteered with the principal Kevan Kennington, and he offered her a job. She’s been a teacher with the school since it opened. Barbara is a music and reading teacher, and the choir director.
A Passion for Teaching
Barbara has always liked teaching. When she was involved with PTA, she didn’t do any work in the classrooms because her older kids had learning disabilities. She found that it was easier for her to be their cheerleader and champion when she did not have to compare them to others.
During that time she learned a lot about teaching and learned a lot about helping students that learn a little bit differently, and she received training on how to teach students with disabilities.
The year before Canyon Elementary School opened, she was a learning disability specialist at Bridgerland Literacy. Bridgerland literacy used to be an adult literacy program, housed at the Logan library. Now it has merged with the Bridgerland Applied Technology Center. Working with the literacy program, she provided assistance to adults that needed help reading and writing in a safe and open environment. The program is designed to help individuals function more efficiently and find more fulfillment in their lives.
As a Teacher Now
Barbara truly loves being a teacher, and she especially loves being with the kids. “They’re my peeps. I just love them.”
She now has multiple generations of Canyon kids. The kids that are there in 1st-6th grade now are Barbara’s third generation. Her second generation are 7th graders – Juniors in high school, and her youngest first generation class of Canyon kids are Seniors this year and the rest have graduated. Some are already married and starting their own families.
Barbara specifically chooses to be a non-grade level teacher. She loves teaching, and by being a non-grade level teacher, she has a more freedom in how she works in the classroom. For her, it is worth being paid less, because she is able to teach like she wants to. However, because she gets paid less, she has to supplement her income by working at Ridley’s (the local grocery store) in the summer.
Ridley’s is a lot harder work, but it is fun because she gets to see her students and get updates about how everyone is doing.
Love of music
In Boise, where she grew up they had a summer music program that offered singing, orchestra, and band classes. The kids got to perform and received awards at the end of the program. It was a really fun and memorable experience for Barbara.
In elementary school, all of her friends decided to do orchestra, but when she was in Junior High she didn’t want to be in orchestra any more. In fact, she didn’t participate in any music classes during 7th and 8th grade.
In Idaho, vocal jazz is really big, and they do a lot of competing in the Pacific Northwest. In 9th grade, after her two year music hiatus, she walked into the 9th grade vocal jazz auditions cold and she made it! Every year after that she was in two and sometimes three choirs each semester. Choir is something that she grew to love then, and she still really likes now.
Craig Jessop is the former music director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (1999-2008). After he resigned from his position, he returned to Cache Valley. He took a position at Utah State University as the head of the music department and became the founding Dean for the Caine College of the Arts at USU. At the time, USU had a choir but it had dwindled over the years. Dr. Jessop really wanted to keep a choir going, and he started the American Festival Chorus (AFC) in 2008, Barbara has been a member of the choir since it started.
“It’s been wonderful. It’s been such an amazing opportunity and experience.”
The AFC is a partnership with the university so there are students that are also members of the choir, but the choir is predominately community members. There are doctors, people that work at factories, teachers… people from all walks of life come together for the love of music.
“I’ve learned so much through him.”
Dr. Jessop is a wonderful and genuine person. He has instilled a love of patriotism in his choir members. Dr. Jessop was previously a Lt. Colonel in the United States Air Force and directed the Air Force Singing Sergeants. He always does a free Veterans day concert and has shared his passion and enthusiasm with those he works with.
Fun Experiences Performing
Barbara loves the Veterans Day concerts, “they are always the best.” The American Festival Chorus also works with guest artists, which has been another fun part of being in the choir for her.
The AFC did a gospel concert one year. Dr. Jessop had a partnership with a high school in New York and he brought some of their students on scholarship to Utah State. An African American lady named Chantel, their music director, came to Utah to guest direct part of the program. She said, “I’m going to get a bunch of you Utah white Mormons to sing gospel.”
Barbara loved the experience. It was a lot of fun. At first the choir members were fairly tight and restrained because of their classic training in music, but Chantel was able to loosen them up and the choir had a really fun time.
Another time Mack Wilberg came to work with the choir. Wilberg is a composer, arranger, conductor, and the current music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The American Festival Chorus performed a concert with him featuring some of his best known works. It was a profoundly spiritual experience.
Other Fun Guest Artists
Donny Osmond was another fun musical guest the choir has performed with. And last year the choir got to work with Gentri, who has agreed to come back and work with them again this year.
They’ve also worked with Peter Cetera from Chicago, whom initially Barbara was ecstatic to sing with being a huge Chicago fan, but was disappointed when he turned out to be a snob.
Other guests she has enjoyed have been Kurt Bestor, Jenny Oaks Baker, and Nathan Pacheco.
Canyon Colt Choir
For many years her music job at Canyon had been pretty straight forward, the administration wanted her to teach for 40 minutes in her class and there were no performances.
About four years ago Jayson Curtis, a fourth grade teacher at Canyon, approached Barbara and let her know that there was money through the after school program specifically designated in the REACH grant for a choir. He asked if she wanted to start a choir for the school.
She eagerly agreed and has created an amazing choir program. There are between 80-105 students who come before school once or twice a week. Besides the Christmas and Spring Concerts, the choir also has several community performances, including Lights On Afterschool at USU, PTA Veterans/Hero Night, Canyon Elementary Leadership Day, Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous, and Cache County School District’s Celebration of the Arts.
Currently the choir is free for anyone who can make the commitment of attending thanks to the funding through the REACH grant. Unfortunately, the funding is on the federal chopping block, so while this next year is funded, the future may entail having to charge to be a part of the choir.
The beauty of being the choir director is that she can pretty much do whatever she wants. She gets to decide what they do, and she lets the kids have input into what they do as well.
For the spring program every year, there is a different theme from a five year rotation Barbara has outlined. So far the Spring Show themes have been: Music is Always There for Me (2014), The 7 Habits (2015), Children of the World (2016), and Disney Meets the 8 Habits (2017). She lets the kids have input and the kids make their own costumes, choreograph their performances, and volunteer for solo performances.
It’s hard to her to pick a favorite theme done because they are all so different. Each year she wonders how next year is going to be any better than the last, but they are always wonderful.
This next year’s spring show will be focused on Leaders in History. Her whole music classroom will be music about Utah history and American history, they will cover a lot of folk songs, spirituals, and more traditional music like that.
The Christmas program is also more traditional, however, this year she did let the kids pick a few of the newer songs. There are so many wonderful traditional songs that aren’t sung because the focus is more on the new more commercial ones. She’s not anti-Santa Claus, but for the performance she wants them to think deeper when it comes to Christmas.
Music is Important
Music is with you everywhere.
The first year that she did choir, the theme was “Music is always there for me,” and it’s true, music is everywhere. She tells her kids, “it doesn’t matter if you think you really like music or don’t like music, you really like music because it’s everywhere.”
One of the incredible things about music is that everyone can appreciate it. Maybe not everyone likes to sing but singing is not the only form of music.
Everyone has four voices: whisper voice, talking voice, their yelling voice, and their singing voice. Everyone has all four voices. It’s sad when some adults say they don’t have a singing voice, because “everybody does, but not everyone has learned how to discover it and how to use it.” But everyone can sing. They may not like to sing, and that’s OK because we all have different likes and things we like to do, but everyone can.
Her music class is not just singing, it’s music. She likes to work with instruments and encourages her kids to also. The school was so lucky to be given by Deloy Hansen, 16 big drums which she uses in her class and in the choir concerts.
Beyond singing and instruments, she likes to talk and teach about different genres of music. Barbara doesn’t listen to country music, but the kids do, so she asks them what they want to learn when she is covering the section on country music. She has a little snippet of something that she does. But she likes the kids to be invested in their learning too.
“We learn from each other.”
Inspiration for Developing her Talents
Barbara used to volunteer with the Cache Children’s Choir and one of the original directors was Bonnie Slade. Bonnie and Jill DeVilbiss were two women Barbara worked closely with and she has learned a lot from them.
Another major source of inspiration of course has come from Craig Jessop.
Barbara does a lot of the same warm ups with her kids that Craig does with the American Festival Chorus. She had one of her kiddos come up to her after watching a program and said, “Mrs. Shidler… they were not singing the right way.” Another of her other kids was singing in their church primary program and when the director asked the kids to start singing louder but the kids started yelling, the boy raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Shidler says that singing loud is not yelling. We don’t yell. Singing loud is different.”
It’s fun being able to pass along things like that she’s learned. It’s even more fun that the kids learn and remember. Being a part of her “grown up” choir develops her skills, teaches her new things, and helps her be a better teacher.
Music is probably her favorite form of self expression, but it is not the only thing she enjoys. Some other things that Barbara enjoys are family history work and going to the temple with her husband.
One of Barbara’s favorite things to do is family history work. Her specialty is descendant research.
For example, she starts with a great great grandpa, or a great grandpa depending on how big the family was and then works forward. As she finds all of the members of the family she finds their stories, compiles them, and adds pictures so they aren’t just a name on the family tree.
She’s completed about seven books on different family lines. That has been a really fun and neat experience for her as she has met dozens of wonderful cousins from all over the United States.
Some of her ancestors she’s been able to complete the temple work for. The temple is an integral part of Barbara’s life. In fact, she’s on a temple “Mecca” right now. She tries to attend a different temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints every month.
All last year she was able to go to a different temple each month, and then in between she would go to the local temple in Logan, UT. The winter this year brought really bad weather so they weren’t able to travel as much, but they have plans to go to several more different temples for the rest of the year. There are currently 156 operating temples, 13 under construction, and 13 are announced for future locations, so they have several to choose from. By the end of 2017, she will have visited or attended 21 different temples.
“It’s just fun. I love to go to the temple.”
The Temple has Special Meaning for her Family
When Barbara was dating her husband, Ken, they would go on temple dates. It was at the temple that he proposed to her.
They were “olderish” as far as Utah goes for getting married when they were dating. Barbara had known that she wanted to be married but Ken was a little apprehensive. She prayed and fasted for Ken to know, and as they went to the temple, he gained the confirmation that he needed. On one special day and while they were together at the temple he asked her, and she said yes.
The temple is a big part of her life, and it is something that she and Ken continue to love doing together.
Barbara’s parents are a great source of inspiration in her life. She models her family a lot around her parent’s example. Her father is known for his integrity and his honesty in his professional and personal life, and both of her parents are examples of unconditional love.
Barbara has five siblings. They are all on different journeys and paths as far as lifestyle and lifestyle choices and values, and her parents don’t play favorites. There is no comparison between children and that is something Barbara really tries to emulate.
“They are very sincere and great examples to me.”
More and more Barbara as looked to the twelve apostles as a source of inspiration. They are great examples and she really believes the wisdom in the primary song, “Follow the Prophet.”
“Now we have a world where people are confused. If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news. We can get direction all along our way, If we heed the prophets-follow what they say.” – Follow the Prophet, LDS Children’s Songbook
Over the last few years she has really tried to keep things centered and focused on what’s important – perspective. Following church leaders and going to the temple has helped her set and keep her priorities.
Everyone gets busy, and sometimes they can lose what’s important. We need to put first things first so the important things don’t fall by the wayside.
When Barbara worked with Hyrum City, she always wanted everyone to like her, and she would get upset when someone didn’t.
While she working on a project, she just could not get along with one of the people she was working with, and the city council person offered a great piece of advice. They said, “You know what Barbara, not everyone is going to like you, just get over it.”
You just have to feel good with who you are, and allow everyone else to have their agency.
Think about what you have control over and what you can do about the situation. Live a life of integrity so that you can feel good about who you are regardless of what anyone else thinks.
“If that which is good, replaces that which is better, that which is good becomes evil.”
Barbara has noticed in her teaching over the last twelve years that life is getting faster and faster and faster. And with the increased pace, everything gets diluted.
Our goals and priorities need to be re-evaluated, on a consistent basis. She has had to look at her own life and really look at what she needs and wants to do, then looks at what’s the most important, and only then can she accurately prioritize her activities. If we don’t decide and make a plan for what we want to do, life will decide for us.
It’s important to put the “big rocks” first and then the little things will fill in as they need to. But first you need to identify which are the “big rocks;” your priorities – what is most valued to you.
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win win
- Seek first to understand then to be understood
- Sharpen the Saw
- Find your voice
Barbara is a huge believer in these habits. In the twenty plus years that she has either volunteered or taught in schools, there has been several different character education themes and different programs that come and go but this one is solid, these habits truly make a difference in living a successful life.
If you follow the eight habits in life, it helps you from making your life a mess. “That’s true whether you are two years old or one hundred and two,” and she tells her kids that all the time.
“Those are really golden pieces of advice for everybody.” They are great too, because they aren’t tied to any value system either, they apply to everyone.
Just Love People
Another thing that she learned when she started having to work at Ridley’s, is that “everyone’s just doing the best they can.”
“Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know.”
Barbara loves people, and she loves appreciating others for who they are. “Don’t put any judgments on them based on where you’re coming from, because they’re on a different journey and a different road.”
“Just love people”
She has fun and interesting customers that she “loves to pieces.” If she didn’t work at Ridley’s, she might not have had the opportunity to meet or bump into them. Everything in life comes with blessings; think win-win.
Fear and Challenges
One challenge Barbara is still working to overcome is her insecurity around other teachers who are music majors. Her degree is in Marriage and Family Therapy, not in music. Sometimes when she is around music major teachers she feels a little intimidated. She feels like she isn’t “as smart” or as knowledgeable as they are.
But, “I love my kids every bit as much as they do, or more.”
Her advice for overcoming fear and challenges is to “surround yourself with people that believe in you.”
One of the hardest things her family ever had to go through was when her daughter Kara had Anorexia. It was so bad, they almost lost her. She spent nearly a year in treatment in two different facilities; Center for Change in Orem, Utah and Avalon Hills in Paradise, Utah.
“That was hard, really hard.” It was a very scary time for them, and they didn’t know what to do.
One of the biggest helps they found was support networks. She is a member of Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED) and tries to give back to mothers who are now in the middle of this scary illness. If you are anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, she will get you connected to help and resources.
- MAED has a closed Facebook page available for any mother looking for support.
Kara is doing very well now. In fact, she was just featured in the Meridian online Magazine about her recovery. It was really hard for her and it was really hard for their family. But she was able to overcome.
- A Survivor’s Story: Long-Term Recovery from Eating Disorders
- Eating Disorders: Surviving the Silent Killer
To overcome, seek people that help and encourage you.
Faith is another critical factor in overcoming. “Traveling this journey on our own is so much more difficult.” Faith brings hope and it brings peace.
Advice for Developing a Talent
Find people that can encourage you and help you, that you feel connected to, that believe in you, and that build you up in everything.
“The sky’s the limit. You can really do anything as long as you really have a passion for it and you are willing to work hard.”
Expectations and Accountability
Working at a grocery store, is a lower level, entry level job. Some of the employees are kids just starting their first job. There are some that don’t even know how to work. It can be a frustrating and hard thing to work with.
Barbara feels that a lot of the problems and frustrations with poor performance in any situation, comes from a lack of communication. An explanation and expectation needs to be given along with accountability.
If expectations aren’t communicated then the person may not know what they are. But when expectations are communicated and things don’t happen, then there needs to be some kind of accountability, because if there isn’t no one can grow and the situation can’t get better.
And this principle is true in any situation whether it’s in a job, with your kids, with your spouse… You have to communicate expectations and pair it with accountability.
Rise to the Occasion
Barbara really believes and she has seen it in her teaching, that “people rise to the occasion.” If they are expected to and given the support they need, people will rise to the level that you expect them to. And likewise, “they will be as lazy as you let them be.”
You have to encourage and communicate, then give support so they can rise to it.
Unfortunately some people tend to be more and more lazy, and have a sense of entitlement. You know, the mentality of: What will I get? What’s in it for me?
In her teaching, some of Barbara’s kids will ask, “what will I get when I do this?” and she’ll respond, “you’ll get to be a better reader.”
It’s almost become a Pavlov dog response. Pavlov conducted an experiment and trained dogs to ring a bell to get a treat. Many kids seem to be programmed for a similar response.
Barbara is trying to teach her kids that, “you don’t need a Scooby snack to do what you need to do… you do it because it’s the right thing to do.” It’s about moral development, doing things because it’s the right thing to do, not out of fear and not because you are getting a reward. She tries to help her kids reach the higher level and act because it’s the right thing to do.
In all her roles with people, she tries to help them get to that higher level.
Tools and Resources for Life and Happiness
For Barbara, the biggest resource for life and happiness is church. Faith is her foundation, and the temple is a priority. Her faith helps her stay focused and keep a long-term perspective. It’s one of the reasons she goes to the temple so often. When things get heavy or she just needs a feeling of peace, the temple is where she finds it.
Love for Books
Another one of Barbara’s favorite things are books. They are her escape. She doesn’t have just one that she likes, because she just reads and reads. It’s fun just to escape.
For a long time she only read hardcopy books, but over the last year she’s started reading digital books and she is able to read even more because electronic versions travel easily. LDS.org has a lot of amazing resources and great things to read.
Barbara is very picky with what she reads. She likes and has read many books by LDS authors, and she likes to read a lot of young adult fiction because they are clean and she doesn’t have to worry about inappropriate content.
Going back to the quote we mentioned before: “If that which is good, replaces that which is better, that which is good becomes evil.”
This really sticks out in her mind because it brings the focus back on our choices and our priorities. She had this posted on her fridge. When life gets busy it reminds her of habit three, put first things first.
Priorities and our business needs to be re-assessed. Everyone has different things they struggle with. Some people can be more involved and more busy and some people for one reason or another can’t. Don’t compare yourself to others or judge, just start where you are and stay focused the best that you can.
- The Book of Mormon. This book is the cornerstone of her religion and faith. The teachings contained in this book are very much a part of who Barbara is as a person. The Book of Mormon is available to read for free online, or you can request a free copy.
- One thing they’ve done that she’s put into their family scripture is using books of daily inspiration.
A Future as Bright as Your Faith by Thomas S. Monson and Stand a Little Taller by Gordon B. Hinckley are two they use. Every day there is a daily spiritual thought and or scripture. Those daily devotionals have been a fun addition to their family scripture study.
- A favorite author is Sherri Dew. Barbara enjoys reading many of her books.
- As far as deeper books, one Barbara loves is The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister.
Another Great Resource
ARP: Addiction Recovery Program but Barbara wants to rename it to the Atonement Testimony Building Program, and I agree with her.
When Barbara’s daughter Kara was battling Anorexia, one of the support groups that Barbara went to was the ARP. The program really deepens your tolerance and understanding, it creates faith in the atonement, and helps you as you try to move forward in life.
The program is available for free online, and is an amazing resource for growth. It is full of incredible information.
When Kara was in treatment for her Anorexia at the Center for Change in Orem, Barbara would go to the meetings wherever she could find one because she needed to be able to understand things and she needed the support of others who could understand what she was going through. She gained incredible strength from those groups.
Music crazy days is a fun thing that she started for her kids at school and now all the other teachers are copying her because it is so fun and the kids love it. However, despite how hard others may try, Music Crazy Day cannot be duplicated the same way Mrs. Shidler does it.
She fills her room with legos, and toys, and a bunch of fun activities for the kids to do for the last week of school, and they listen to music. The kids know that she is really picky about lyrics so they submit songs they want to listen to and she looks them up to review the lyrics first, after some have been approved they listen to their songs and then they just have a good time.
Most teachers are excited for the summer, but she’s not. She really misses her kids during the summer. She recognizes that the kids and some of the teachers do need a break, “but I miss my kids.”
Her kids are getting excited for summer and they ask what she’s excited about during the summer, the win win situation of her working at Ridley’s, is that she gets to see a lot of them as they go to the grocery store over the summer. She makes sure all the kids know where to find her and she asks them to come visit.
For Barbara, Ridley’s is a lot harder work than teaching. She’s in the “older than 50 age group” and standing in one place all day is hard. When one of her Canyon Kids come in when she is feeling really exhausted and tired, she feels re-energized. She loves being able to see all of her kiddos, her regular ones, and her big ones too.
She is excited about getting more grandkids. Her daughter Kara, that overcame her battle with Anorexia, is going to have her first baby in September; which will be grandbaby number four. Grandchildren are really fun, and having another one is something that Barbara is really looking forward to.
Beyond that, she is excited about moving forward and loving people.
Hyrum City Star Spangled Week’s Patriotic Program
One fun event that Barbara is looking forward to this summer is the Hyrum City Patriotic Program.
Craig Jessop is the speaker and the American Festival Chorus and USU Alumni Band will be performing. What’s even more exciting is that AFC is inviting the 3-8th graders to sing with them. Barbara is the Point of Contact for the south part of the valley but the kids don’t have to live in Hyrum to be a part of this fun event. It is free and a really neat opportunity for her students and for other kids around the valley.
She hopes that she has a lot of kiddos participate and that a lot of families come out to support and celebrate what the 4th of July is really all about.
They will be singing:
- The National Anthem
- America the Beautiful
- This Land is Your Land
- God Bless America
- On the Mall
- Addiction Recovery. (2017). Retrieved from https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng
- American Festival Chorus. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.americanfestivalchorus.org/
- Avalon Hills. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.avalonhills.org/
- Book of Mormon. lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng
- Bridgerland Applied Technology College. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.batc.edu/
- Bridgerland Literacy. (2017). Retrieved from https://bridgerliteracy.wordpress.com/
- Cache Children’s Choir. (2017). Retrieved from http://cachechildrenschoir.org/
- Center for Change. (2017). Retrieved from https://centerforchange.com/
- Eventbrite. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sing-with-american-festival-chorus-and-usu-alumni-band-tickets-33896282694
- Hyrum City. (2017). Retrieved from http://hyrumcity.org/newsevents/4th-of-july-celebration-infomation
- LDS Church Temples. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/temples/
- lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/
- MAED. (2017). Facebook. Retrieved from https://m.facebook.com/groups/328023723908203
- Meridian Magazine. (May 8, 2017). Retrieved from http://ldsmag.com/a-survivors-story-long-term-recovery-from-eating-disorders/
- Proctor, Mariah. (May 21, 2017). Meridian Magazine. Retrieved from http://ldsmag.com/eating-disorders-surviving-the-silent-killer/
- Stephen R Covey. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.stephencovey.com/
- Temples. lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/topics/temples?lang=eng
- The Leader in Me. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.theleaderinme.org/
- USU.edu. (2017). Retrieved from https://cca.usu.edu/contact_us/deansoffice_staff/jessop_craig