Switching keys

February 05, 2016

Music and kids have always been the refrain of Joel Corriveau's working life. Before becoming an occasional teacher at JR Wilcox Community School with the Toronto District School Board, he taught at a Toronto-based music program for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

The decision to switch careers wasn't an easy one, he admits. He and his wife are raising two young daughters in Toronto, where the cost of living is weighty. But, the long-term security of a defined benefit pension plan helped to tip the scale. "I'm winning both ways, because I am investing in my future, but I am also loving what I am doing each day at a time," Joel says.

Joel reflects on his first career, which gave him a chance to sing with kids, parents, caregivers and grandparents. "I would see some of the kids on a regular basis from when they were babies to pre-schoolers. It was pretty awesome to see that development happen."

A vocal injury forced Joel to hit pause and take a three-month break. "When that was my sole source of income that was terrifying. It was right around the time that teachers' college applications were due," he said. "I had always thought about applying to teachers' college, but never made the leap. At that time, it seemed like my body was telling me it was time to change."

Family members and friends warned him that starting a teaching career wouldn't be an easy road to take.  "But, I maintained a sense of optimism and volunteered to build experience and relationships," he says.

Finding a full-time permanent position is tricky. Roughly 1-in-5 of our working members are occasional teachers. In 2015, shortly after he graduated, he landed an LTO position teaching music in an elementary school.

"A lot of what I'm doing as a first-year teacher is finding out what works. So, I feel like I'm learning as much as the students are," he says.

"If I had a lesson plan on paper and it's not going where I want it to go, I'm going to change it to what my students need, rather than ride that lesson plan right into the ground. There is so much room for improvisation in teaching. I love it," Joel continues.

"I really want to continue to be a music teacher. There is so much uncertainty about where I'll be next year, but to know that there is some financial certainty at the end of my career, that's a bonus of the investment of my time and experience." 

Five facts about Joel

Age: 34

Band currently on his playlist: The Strumbellas

Guilty pleasure: Dancing to Taylor Swift with his daughters who are 2 and 3 years old

Musical history: At age 7 he took classes where he "played recorder, ate poppy seed muffins with warm water and danced around a May pole." In high school, friends taught him to play guitar. He studied Electroacoustics at Concordia University.

Nods and accolades: Joel produced two Splash ‘n Boots albums, Coconuts Don't Fall Far from the Tree and Songs from the Boot. Both picked up Juno nominations for Children's Album of the Year (2014 and 2016, respectively).