Benjamin Milis is living his dream as a music teacher and conductor. The Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching alumnus didn’t plan to study at Avondale but “felt a strong call to become a teacher and heard about the great teaching course.”
What have you doing since graduating from Avondale? Tell us about your career.
I began my teaching career at Hills Adventist College where I built up a K-12 music program while teaching HSC music and English. That was wild. I found being thrown into the deep end a valuable learning experience, and I’m grateful I got to do it alongside one of my best friends. Moving to part-time work a few years in allowed me to finish a master’s degree in conducting through The University of Sydney. After this, I scored a full-time teaching position at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. I’m still there and loving my job. My role involves teaching junior school music and drama, coordinating chapel music and conducting a range of K-12 ensembles.
On the side, I conduct the Australian Girls Choir and direct a couple of annual concerts—the Christmas-themed Sing Noel and Hymnfest, which raises money for the Bible Society—at Wahroonga Seventh-day Adventist Church.
What about your job do you love?
I love that each day is different—yesterday, for example, Johnny accidentally sat on Julie’s sandwich; today, Toby snuck a bird into the classroom. I love inspiring, through my words and my lesson plans, a change in a student’s motivation and self-worth. I love the impact music education has on children—it builds social and cultural values, develops persistence, and accelerates brain development. Most importantly, I love the joy music brings.
What did you find best about Avondale?
The people, of course. I graduated from Avondale with lifelong friends and wonderful mentors whom I still regularly contact. But Avondale also nurtured my spiritual life. I loved serving in ministry roles with the church on campus and working with the Institute of Worship. And I must mention Avondale Conservatorium. It’s among the best places in the country to study music, especially if you’re wanting a career in music education.
How did you adjust to COVID-related changes to teaching? What advice do you have for teachers as they continue developing online resources?
I found the first month painful but soon settled into the morning sleep-in and the slower pace. Teaching remotely challenged me but also allowed me to discover interesting tools and provided time to develop great resources.
My advice for other teachers is to engage your students through humour and expression when making videos or using Zoom. Be silly. Be dramatic. Have some fun. Also, look directly into the lens of the camera and speak with a genuinely excited tone. Students feed off your energy and passion, even if it’s through a device. Finally, be kind to your colleagues. Affirm them. Encourage them. Pray with them. This makes a big difference.