You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves her job as much as Alison Bailey Streich ’87.
A music teacher in the Oakland Unified School District, Bailey radiates with pride when talking about the accomplishments of her elementary, middle and high school students. “My students play joyously,” she said.
Recently Streich was recently recognized for her ability to provide students a transformational music experience when she was named a 2014-15 Oakland Unified School District Teacher of the Year.
Teachers of the Year are selected using a number of criteria including the recommendations of nominators, candidates’ personal statements of teaching philosophy, and the observations of candidates’ teaching practice, classroom environment and student conduct.
OUSD Music Coordinator Phil Rydeen said Streich “engages her students with creative songs that teach students to read and perform music at high levels.”
Streich has worked within OUSD for 21 years. She’s taught a K-3 special education class, first grade, kindergarten and led the district’s Community Immersion program for special education students aged 18-22.
She is currently teaching music at four West Oakland schools including Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Lafayette Elementary, West Oakland Middle School and McClymonds High School.
Streich also developed and continues to instruct the Oakland Spirit Orchestra, a student orchestra that partners with the Oakland East Bay Symphony.
Being honored as a top teacher is simply icing on the cake of a fulfilling career. “To me, it doesn’t matter if I’m ‘Teacher of the Year’ or not. I just really like my job. I’ve found my niche,” she said.
Early Love of Music
Streich’s love of music, and the violin in particular, was fostered by her third grade teacher, Dorothy Lee at Corpus Christi
School. “She played the violin and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up,” she said. “I give Ms. Lee a lot credit for showing me a life path.”
At O’Dowd, Streich participated in orchestra under Leonard Rossi’s direction. “It was the only class that I got an ‘A’ in every single grading period all four years,” she said. “For me, that class was where I was my best. It was my home base.”
Streich went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music from Holy Names University, where she later pursued a master’s in education along with a multiple subject teaching credential and a learning handicapped teaching credential.
Prior to becoming a full-time teacher, Streich was a member of the Golden Bough trio, playing violin, and lived on the road playing gigs throughout the world for two years.
Fostering Joy, Confidence and Compassion through Music
Streich says the importance of music in the life of a child can’t be underestimated. “A kid may come into the band room in a really bad mood – they got a bad grade on a test or they’re grumpy – but we have this law ‘Check the drama at the door – just come in and let’s make music’,” she said. “They come into class in a certain mood, but by the time they leave their energy has changed.”
Music also provides an avenue for students to learn about teamwork and respecting others, Streich said. “There’s so much strife and conflict among people in general. It’s important for them to be in an environment where there is no yelling and no conflict. Coming together to create music facilitates this connection of humanity,” she said.
Oakland Spirit Orchestra (OSO) was borne from Streich’s desire to offer a musical experience to children from all corners of the city. But launching the orchestra was also a way for Streich to channel her energy and grief after the death of her mother. “I had been talking about starting this orchestra for a long time. I finally started it in memory of my mom,” she said. “It’s been wonderful. The kids have become really close with one another and look out for each other.”
Streich is grateful for the support of community members, particularly fellow O’Dowd alums Ann Lovi ’89 and Tina Ramos ’87.
Lovi provided the funds to buy T-shirts for all of the members of OSO, while Ramos is holding a fundraiser at her new restaurant, LaSnackeria (815 Washington St. in Old Oakland), on April 1, from 4-8 p.m., to benefit the orchestra.
Streich says that learning music can be very difficult and frustrating for a child. “Music demands your concentration and effort. You can’t be self-conscious, you just have to be brave,” she said. “I like helping kids get through those super frustrating times. I feel super vital and really needed here.”
Streich says staying inspired is easy. “I’m addicted to the joy,” she said.
The award-winning teacher continues to pursue her own music, performing regularly with a quartet called the Rusty String Express. And she encourages students to maintain music in their lives regardless of what profession they eventually choose. “If you have something that brings joy to your life you just can’t give that up,” she said.
Streich has a 15-year-old son, Eli, who is a drummer and bassist. She is the sister of Meghan Bailey Wallingford ’89 and Elena Bailey ’92.