Paul Santerre just finished up his first semester as a professor at SNHU, although it is far from his first position teaching his passion: music. Paul has been teaching since the Spring of 1983, right after he completed his undergrad at Keene State University, having studied K-12 Music Education. After 15 years, Paul decided to pursue his master degree in Instrumental Conducting at the University of Maine at Orono.
“I’ve taught 28 years in public school over the last 35 years, and this is my third college, the other two being Rivier College, used to be New Hampshire Technical College in Nashua, and then one semester at what used to be known as Notre Dame College. Now, here I am at Southern New Hampshire University!”
Judging by his track record, Paul has acquired the required knowledge to teach through many devoted years at feasibly every level; however, being a teacher, and an impactful one, is not only about the knowledge one possesses. To be an effective teacher, one must connect with their students, no matter if they are major students or those taking a course as an elective. Paul creates a solid basis with his students initially, seemingly memorizing every student’s name by the beginning of the second class.
Paul wants every single one of his students to succeed and will do what he can to make sure that happens. He is willing to mold his teaching style depending on what works best for the students.
“Today’s student is much different from when I first started. They’re much more visually represented because of the computer and everything. There are things that I was never taught back in college, but now, as an educator, I had to catch up on all the technical things, so that’s a big thing.”
Paul will admit he isn’t the swiftest technology user, and because of that, he is grateful for the students who are willing to help and teach him in class whenever an issue arises. “I see kids so quick in the computer that they’re teaching me what to do; which is fine, I have no problem with that.”
“When I was taught and then began teaching, we worked with textbooks and straight lecture, with no use of YouTube or PowerPoint slides. The earliest visual aid I remember was the mimeograph machine. You had to hand wheel this thing, so that sort of shows how much things have changed.”
Having seen such a broad spectrum of students, Paul understands that not one single style works for everyone: “You have to work with what you have in front of you; I operate differently depending on if I’m working with a middle schooler as opposed to as high schooler. It’s especially different with college students since I’m able to assume that they’re much more accountable. No matter what age, it’s safe to say we’re past that straight lecture—thank god.”
Those with first-hand accounts will tell about how there is never a dull moment in a Paul Santerre course. His personality is bombastic and magnetic; he can have a caffeine-like effect on any class. Paul is always exuding a high tempo passion for his subject. “If I’m going slow or I’m sitting in a chair, it means Paul is sick. I’ve been told that I’m very fast; there’s a lot of energy. That’s been me my whole life. I give credit to my mom being 100 percent Italian, so there’s that fire and passion within me.”
Some professors admit to “performing” when they’re up in front of a class, but not Paul. “There’s no switch when I walk in the classroom. I’m get up and go most of the time, and I’ve been doing that for a long time. It’s not a show, it’s the truth, and that’s the way it is. If I’m talking too fast, I’ll go back and review, and I always give my students this option.”
Paul’s arrival at SNHU came partially from the university and the program’s desire to open up more elective courses for students. Specifically, they wanted to have a couple more options for non-music majors who still wanted to take music courses. Paul is the perfect ambassador for bridging the gap, not overwhelming the non-major with technical aspects, nor dumbing down the subject so much that the majors feel that their time is wasted.
In the fall, Paul delivered in a big way with his History of Jazz class, which captivated students with an ecstatically taught journey through the early history of jazz, also exploring black oppression in America at the time. While the course is rooted in history and some textbook reading was required, Paul brought in all he could for live examples, whether it be other professors or students in the class.
“In the world of music we have an advantage – with all due respect to other subjects – and it’s that we can demonstrate on a musical instrument. We have this opportunity to make an example through noise, and in my world, that’s the greatest thing ever.”
Debuting at SNHU this spring is a History of Rock n’ Roll class, and Paul couldn’t be more excited to teach it. “While the jazz class has been great, I’m a firm believer that the further removed a subject is from a person’s age, the harder it is to sell it. Now this history of Rock class, that only has a few slots left, is going to be talking about Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and other bands alike, ones that the students have heard of and are familiar with.”
While Paul shines in the classroom, what makes him so special is his willingness and drive to help students outside the classroom. If a student cares enough to meet with Paul and get some extra studying in with the professor, he will find time. Despite having a busy life away from SNHU, Paul is fully present for his students.
Much can be said about Paul and his ability to connect with students on both an academic and personal level. More than anything, students often feel glad to know Paul; he’s a man who will always say “hello” around campus and has a general uplifting aura wherever he goes.