Mrs. Reilly: Helping Students Grow and Flourish

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By Lauren O’Keefe

A lot of people at Williamsville East know and love Ms. Reilly. For those who don’t know her, she is the chorus teacher at our school and also runs the Drama Club at East. She tends to be a popular students’ favorite.  She builds a great, welcoming environment amongst her classes and with all of her students. I don’t know anyone who ever feels unwanted or unwelcome when in a class of hers. I’ve heard from many of her students that even though they started the year with not many friends in chorus, they were instantly accepted and made quick friends. This is primarily because of how well Ms. Reilly has created a very loving and supportive environment in the music department. 

Ms. Reilly has been teaching for 32 years. She started in 1990. Before working at Williamsville East she worked at two other schools. Her first teaching job in 1990 was in North Tonawanda, and after that she worked at Casey Middle from 1991 to 1993 for two years. As of this year she has been working at East for 29 years. When asked what her first impression of East was she said, “I was intimidated. I was intimidated by all the other teachers who were here. Lots of big names; big personalities.” And I’m sure you can assume she had first thoughts on the “no walls” layout that sets East apart from other schools. “I thought it was cool there were no walls. Although for me, in the music department, we had walls so I didn’t get to experience the no walls but I thought it was a cool concept.” 

What made Ms. Reilly want to become a chorus teacher? Though it may surprise many people, she wasn’t always going to pursue chorus or teaching. She was originally thinking about going into computers but her high school chorus teacher pointed out she had a natural talent and should think about teaching chorus. “‘You’re good at what you do. You’re good at singing, you’re good at directing,’ when I used to take over and do warm ups and things, so I decided to become a chorus teacher.” 

Ms. Reilly has also received a few awards over the years for her musical and teaching ability. “I received the ECMEA BPO ‘Outstanding Teacher Award’ a few years ago. That was really nice because I was nominated by my colleagues. I also received the Buff State ‘Music Educator Award’, which is very nice when you’re nominated by your peers to receive those awards.” She won that award around 6 -10 years ago. 

Now that she’s been teaching many different styles of music for years, classical is her favorite in the classroom. “I just love that type of music, it’s fun to teach. You get the big, open, full sound. That’s really fun.” While loving to teach Mozart and the pretty, classic style music, she takes a different liking during her free time. She goes from classical to classic rock. “Believe it or not, I do not put on 94.5 on my way home. I actually put on 97 Rock and I jam out all the way home.” 

In her free time she likes to hang out with her friends and family. “[We] hang out and watch Bills games, or we have a fire pit in the backyard. We like to sit around the firepit, play corn hole”. Ms. Reilly doesn’t have any absurd, crazy family traditions but she did talk about how her and her whole family get together at pretty much all the holidays and have a “big feast”. 

Another hobby of Ms. Reilly’s that her students and others may not know is that she loves interior decorating. “ I love watching HGTV, I watch it all the time. I got the magazine. I like to decorate.” She says her house is like a constant project. “Changing paint color, getting new rugs, whatever.” 

Ms. Reilly, being a teacher, gets the luxury of a nice, long, summer vacation. So in weeks that Ms. Reilly isn’t at school teaching, she passes the time by gardening. “ I love to garden. I do, I do. I love landscaping, planting trees, flowers, being outside, and enjoying the sunshine.”