THOMAS RIZZO

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Music teacher/band director

North Attleboro High School

Age: 36

ABOUT HIM: Born in Mineola, New York, lived in Westbury, New York and moved to North Attleboro as a child. Graduated North Attleboro High School in 2001, attended University of New Hampshire and earned his bachelor’s degree in music education. Received master’s degree in educational leadership from Bridgewater State University in 2016. Currently lives in North Attleboro with wife, Sarah, daughter Emma, three, son Joey, eight months, and puggle Zeus.

WHY YOUR FIELD? I remember the exact moment I wanted to teach as a profession. One evening at a marching band rehearsal at North Attleboro High School, my teacher, Stuart Britton asked me to warm up the ensemble while he finished something in his office. At the end of warmups, I noticed he had not yet returned so I began rehearsing the music myself. I don’t know how long Mr. Britton was watching but at one point during the rehearsal I looked back towards the door and he was standing there with his arms crossed watching me work with the group. I apologized and backed up to let him take over and he motioned to me to continue rehearsing. While I always enjoyed performing, it was at this moment I realized I wanted to do be a music teacher as a career. I was always into music in school, taking instrumental lessons in fifth grade with Valerie Smith, currently a colleague of mine. In junior high, music teacher, Steven Conant, and band director at Norwood High School, fostered my enjoyment of music making and exposed my friends and I to numerous opportunities that got me hooked. Things like joining the jazz band and recruiting 7th and 8thgraders to join the marching band really showed me all the different opportunities there were to play my instrument and be a part of an ensemble. In high school, Mr. Britton really encouraged and nourished my interest and talent.

BEST CAREER ADVICE: In teaching, we tend to give all of ourselves to our career. We think about our students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a lesson goes well, we credit our students. If a lesson goes poorly, we blame ourselves. If a student is having difficulty, we take personal responsibility. It can consume us! It is very important to take a step back and “keep your eyes on the prize.” Take some time for yourself and family. Burnout is real; you best serve your students when you take care of yourself.

HARDEST LESSON LEARNED: No matter how hard you try and no matter your best intentions, regardless of your research, and despite your collaboration, you will not always make everyone happy. Over the years I have learned not to look for the approval of others but to make the best decisions I can based off of the most accurate information I have. As long as I believe in my convictions, I will not have regrets.

MENTOR(S): My college professor Dr. Andrew Boysen taught me so much about how to treat people, how to be knowledgeable in your field, how to be encouraging, how to be kind and caring and still demand excellence. He is a very talented conductor, composer, and master teacher. I am lucky to be able to stay in touch with him and eager to work with him whenever I get the chance.

GIVING BACK: Member of the Triboro Youth Theater Executive Board, the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association (MICCA) Executive Board, the North Attleboro Representative Town Meeting, and the North Attleboro High School Council

WHAT TALENT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD MOST THAT YOU DON'T NOW? I wish I had the parenting talent that my wife has. She can go days without sleep and still be a patient, loving, and caring mother. I, on the other hand, cannot function and become a cranky child.

WHAT AWARDS/RECOGNITIONS HAVE YOU RECEIVED IN YOUR CAREER?  Recipient of Walmart Teacher of the Year award (2007), and creation of the Thomas P. Rizzo Music Education Scholarship founded by community parents.