Beth Anspach has a heart for children and families and bringing them together, as evidenced by her studio business, Pathways to Learning, which began in 2000 and now offers both Kindermusik classes as well as Conscious Discipline® workshops and coaching. Beth’s business serves families in the Red Hook, New York area, with three studio locations. Among her families, Beth is known for her patience, calm, and upbeat attitude. Some of her hobbies including spending time with her kids and reading. Beth can hardly believe that the year 2017 marks her 20th year of being a licensed Kindermusik educator. Time flies when you love what you do and when you are making such a big difference in your little corner of the world!
TC: First things first. What do your Kindermusik kids call you?
BA: Miss Beth
TC: What do you love most about being a Kindermusik educator?
BA: I love having an opportunity to work closely with parents and their children. The Kindermusik tenet that the parent is the child best and primary teacher provides opportunity for contact with parents at all levels of the studio curricula. Supporting parents in the understanding of their child’s development and helping adult and child connect through music and movement is the most rewarding part of what I do, well that and the loads of love that children extend to me throughout the day.
TC: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you as a Kindermusik teacher?
BA: There have been so many touching experiences over the years, but here’s a funny one. I was putting stamps on hands after class and one child was uncertain so I reassured her saying that the stamp would wash off really easily if she decided she didn’t like it. Out of the blue another 3-year old in the waiting area piped up, “My mommy has a stamp of a butterfly on her butt that doesn’t ever wash off.” I’m not sure if mom wanted everyone to know she had a butterfly tattoo on her bottom or not but everyone got a chuckle.
TC: What’s your favorite Kindermusik song to sing?
BA: There are so many favorites. We have such a rich and diverse collection. Some of the lullabies are my favorites because of the emotional connection to having sung them with my own babies. “Sulla Lulla” and “Armenian Lullaby” are two that hold a special spot in my heart.
TC: What’s your favorite Kindermusik dance to lead?
BA: Again, so many great dances to choose from. I guess “Mama Paquita” is one on the top of my list. I especially love the circle dances we do in Cuddle & Bounce. These dances not only impact the babies as they watch the other adults and babies move around the circle but you can really see the adults connecting through moving and dancing together in synchrony. The smiles and giggles from adults and babies alike as well as the nonverbal connections that are made in these moments are priceless.
It’s also fun to watch the progression of circle dances throughout the Kindermusik 7-year continuum. From babes in arms being carried around the circle, to young toddlers holding on (just to their own parent’s hand) to older toddlers feeling safe enough to hold hands with other adults, to preschoolers having enough control to hold hands with their peers, and on up to school aged kiddos ready to take on the dances without the adults present.
TC: Describe a teaching experience or favorite Kindermusik family that has impacted you as a teacher.
BA: There was a class of toddlers once where one little boy was really having difficulty being gentle with the other children (typical of many toddlers) and mom was struggling with what to do, feeling like a failure. It was a challenging time as everyone was concerned for safety and you could feel the tension in the classroom. I remember, after an incident, simply putting my hand on mom’s shoulder and confirming for her that we all cared deeply for her and her little boy and that we recognized her effort in trying to help her child and help keep the other children safe. I asked her permission to let us help her and her sweet boy and gave her and the other parents some ideas on what they could do to be helpful. It was an amazing moment as the class came together in support of, instead of in judgement of, a fellow parent. It was at that moment I realized that as a teacher I often have the power to set the tone and lead by example for the adults as much as for the children. We were able to help this little boy and keep the other children safe and the parents from this particular class are one of the closest knit groups to this day.
TC: If you had to name just one secret to success in the Kindermusik classroom, what would it be?
BA: Being prepared. It is only when we are well prepared to teach a lesson that we can adjust that lesson to meet the needs of the group and tailor the class experience to the specific children in front of you. Once you know and understand where a lesson is going you can follow the child and families and lead the way at the same time.
TC: If you could share one tip with a new Kindermusik educator, what would it be?
AB: Slow down and lean in (is that two?!). The reality is it’s not about getting through the lesson plan (although they are amazing) or getting to all the activities (although they are fun and valuable); it’s about taking the time to help everyone lean in to the experience. Everything happens so fast in our world that adults and children (and teachers!) have grown accustomed to the fast pace. When I was a new educator I often moved on from an activity too fast. The moment I thought an activity wasn’t going to work for a class, I was on it with something new to do or a prop to add pizzazz. Quite by accident I realized that if I went a little bit beyond my comfort zone and instead slowed down, allowing time for observation, giving adults and children time to figure things out and supporting them by coaching (rather than changing things up) amazing things happened. Connections are made in those moments. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time to move on and add pizzazz. Paying attention to the needs of your class is a must but going just a bit beyond where you’re comfortable is where the magic happens.
TC: Why did you open your own studio business?
BA: I had stopped working full time as a Music Therapist after my first child was born and needed an outlet as a mom and as a professional. Opening a Kindermusik business just made sense and met both of those needs.
TC: What are some of the goals you have for your business?
BA: I would like to continue to expand our reach by adding more classes in other locations. My goal is to impact more children and families. I have one great teacher working with me now and in the future hope to have enough demand for classes to add more teachers and more locations to the team.
TC: What’s something new and exciting that’s happening with your business?
BA: Well, after nearly 20 years of being licensed, I hired my first educator last year. That’s really exciting for me and for my studio families. Having Alissa on the team has been such a relief, especially after being a one woman show for so long. It’s also great for our community as we are able to offer more classes and have a greater reach with two of us teaching. It’s also nice to have another educator right here to bounce ideas off of. I’m just as excited to learn from her as I am to share what I know with her.
TC: What do you feel has made your studio business a success?
BA: Honestly, prayer. Ultimately, I give all glory to God for any success I have achieved. In addition to that, lots of hard work and openness to adapt and change as needed. My focus is creating the best studio experience. It can be easy to put energy into what else is going on, who my competition is, what they’re doing and so on. Instead I choose to focus on the studio offering the best class experience we can. That means being willing to change things and adapt to what will help us offer the best. This past year it meant hiring another teacher. Additional training is a big part of offering the best.
Six years ago, I chose to pursue training in Conscious Discipline ® and became a Conscious Discipline ® Certified Instructor in 2015. That training allows me to offer something very unique to my studio families. In addition to what it adds to the class experience, I’m also able to offer adult classes to further equip parents.
Another training that didn’t help as much inside the classroom but helped with a lot of the work outside the classroom was the Studio Expansion Program training. It really helped me organize myself, make a plan for growth, and see it through. The business part of being a business owner was never a strength, and the SEP has given me skills I desperately needed to create growth. We have seen a 10-15% growth as a result of putting into place what I learned doing the SEP. Finally, staying connected to the educator community through face to face events and conferences has had a huge impact on my motivation and success. The opportunity to learn from others and share with like-minded educators always puts a zip in my step and drives me a little bit more.
What makes your studio such a special place? Our studio is a place where each family, adult, and child is welcomed, accepted, and supported. Our goal is to equip parents with the skills that will allow them to understand their child and help them develop while we also equip children with the skills they will need for lifetime success and joyful living. Lastly, we strive to facilitate connections. These connections between children and their parents/caregivers, families and other families, children to children, and adults to adults allow us to create a community where each member is celebrated and valued.
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you.” – Zig Ziglar