“My favorite thing about my job is the first day of school,” says Dr. Brian McDaniel ’11. “All the new students come in with expectations, and it’s my job to exceed those expectations.”
After four years of excelling as the director of bands and choirs at Painted Hills Middle School in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., McDaniel was named a Riverside County Teacher of the Year in May 2017. “I’m still in shock,” he says.
A few weeks later, McDaniel was named a California Teacher of the Year—one of only five to receive the designation this year—and will be nominated by the state for the National Teacher of the Year award. Under his direction, the music program has grown from 75 to 225 students, and student performances have earned awards in competitions every year. McDaniel says that a secret to the program’s success is expanding his students’ horizons.
“I use Wing Chun Kung Fu, yoga, and dance to teach rhythm and to build up air capacity,” says McDaniel. “Teaching abstract practices and turning them into concrete lessons makes it easier for students to be comfortable in the classroom.”
McDaniel’s passion for unique teaching methods stems from his knowledge of how important music programs are to student development. “There’s so much research that proves that participation in music helps increase language and mathematics skills,” says McDaniel. “When a student enters a music classroom, it’s all about the process instead of memorizing facts. The kids are living through emotions and feelings of other human beings who lived years and centuries before them.”
McDaniel says he knew the doctoral program at the University of Redlands would challenge him, and he was not disappointed.
“Redlands’ educational justice program stood a head above the other programs I looked at,” says McDaniel. “I didn’t just want a doctorate degree, I wanted to learn from professors like Dr. Lalas and Dr. Morgan. Every person who came out of my cohort could have been a California State Teacher of the Year, because that’s how they prepared us. What I learned at Redlands translates to my classroom and into all other aspects of my life.”