Meet the teacher: Tim Tobin, Niles High School

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

Name: Tim Tobin

School: Niles High School

Grade(s)/subject(s) taught: Spanish one and two, French one and two (Grades: Freshman and Sophomore)

Where did you attend college? Indiana University for my bachelor’s and Bethel University for my master’s.

How many years have you been teaching? How many years have you been with your current school? I have been teaching for 13 years, and this will be my fifth-year teaching at Niles High School.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I have always loved teaching. When I was a performer, in between gigs, I would teach: acting, singing, movement and dance.

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? I am an adjunct professor at Notre-Dame. I teach voice. I enjoy teaching voice. I am a professional opera singer and even though I no longer sing professionally, teaching voice keeps me in the loop.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? That I was the first and only Heldentenor to win the Lauritz Melchior Competition. The first prize was $50,000.

I won the first prize of the Singers Development Foundation granted to me by Luciano Pavarotti.

That I used to be a professional dancer and assisted Tommy Tune with the choreography for the Broadway Show: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

When I was 9 years old, living in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, I used to have a one hour variety show on the local radio.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Bruenhilde was a female warrior, one of the Valkyries. In some versions, the daughter of the principal god Odin. She defies Odin and is punished by imprisonment within a ring of fire until a brave hero falls in love and rescues her. I love the “Walkuere,” an opera written and composed by Richard Wagner. The music is fabulous and all of the Nordic Mythical characters are brought to life through is beautiful music.

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? After school, I would go to ballet lessons and acting lessons. My voice took five years to change from boy soprano to tenor. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t sing, that I took acting and dance.

At age, 17 right after graduating from Fordham Prep., Bronx, New York, I was cast as Fyedka in “Fiddler on The Roof,” directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. This started my musical theater career. I later studied classical singing and at age 25 won first prize at the Paris Opera and started my operatic career.

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? Creative, fun, diverse, bringing the “real” culture and “perfect” pronunciation so that students can not only learn how to read and write, but also speak.

Who is your biggest role model and why? I don’t have just one. What I admire are people that succumb to diseases such as cancer or other debilitating sicknesses. What I admire is their strength and perseverance. I also admire all those less fortunate than I, those who struggle to make ends meet, those that set examples for our future generations. If you work hard and believe in yourself — all is possible.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? I think that it has wanted to include all students, no matter their level of learning. Teachers are forced to teach for the standardized tests, which removes the creativity of the teacher.

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? A parent needs to be actively involved in the education process of their child.

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… To be caring, respectful and honest abiding citizens of the world. To follow their dreams and not allow anyone to steer them away from reaching their dreams. That life is beautiful and that we should cherish every moment.

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