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Solution Seeker Spotlight: Naoko Sokolik, South Bay Elementary

Each month we feature staff members dedicated to being Solution Seekers in their schools. 

Naoko teaching from her pianoNaoko Sokolik, music teacher at South Bay Elementary, recognizes that our lives are full of surprises and believes that "attitude is everything." She keeps a positive outlook and finds creative ways to address challenges with her students. 

Tell us about yourself.  

I am the elementary music specialist at South Bay, and have worked in our district for 8 years. 

I was born and raised in Japan and came to the United States as a Rotary exchange student when I was 17. I was planning to go home after a year, but my piano teacher at the time suggested that I stay here longer and study piano in college.  

I ended up getting my master's degree in piano performance and pedagogy, getting married, and getting certified to teach music.  

My whole family is musical; my husband is a cellist who teaches orchestra at Chinook Middle School, and my two daughters both play the violin. It has been fun to perform with them as a family. 

What do you like best about your job?   

The best thing about my job is to be able to work with the same students from Kindergarten to 5th grade and build good relationships. I love to share what I am passionate about and grow together musically with my students. Seeing young musicians improve their skills gives me the most joy. 

Why is being a Solution Seeker important to you? 

Every day, we constantly run into problems; our lives are full of surprises! When things do not go in the way you want them to, you need to be able to adjust and do the best you can.  

You can also find new ways to deal with problems (and often time, they are better ways!) if you seek solutions all the time.  

It is easy to ignore problems or make excuses about problems being too difficult or even impossible to solve. The most important thing is not to react negatively, take a deep breath, and choose the best solution. If you keep being positive and try your best, things turn out well. I am a big believer in "attitude is everything." 

Naoko accompanying her student choirCan you share a story where you experienced problem-solving in action?   

As a foreign exchange student, I struggled with English in school. I had to be creative and seek help from many people around me.  

As a short person, I have small hands, which is a significant disadvantage as a pianist. I have a long list of musical pieces that "I am not supposed to play" because of my hand size, which was reinforced by every one of my piano teachers. However, I worked diligently to solve my problem; I learned all the tricks I could and practiced for many hours to overcome my small hand size. I share a story about when my dream teacher (before I met them) told me that my hand size would be my biggest challenge, I was not talented enough, and that I should quit playing the piano.  

I have worked hard to overcome my challenges and proved that you can do anything if you are passionate and put effort into it. I tell my students; if I can do it, you can do it!