From the time she was a little girl at Wood View Elementary School, Rebecca Battista-Sullivan dreamed about being a singer.
Today, not only is the Bolingbrook High School Class of 1994 graduate singing professionally, she is also fulfilling her dream by teaching the joy of singing to Valley View School District 365U elementary school students.
“Coming to teach in Valley View meant the world to me,” said Battista-Sullivan, who is teaching at Salk Elementary School in Bolingbrook this semester and will be at Tibbott Elementary School next semester. “I wanted to give back everything that I received as a kid and student here.”
The North Central College graduate’s love for singing began at Wood View when she was involved in the “little shows” every elementary school puts on.
“I always had a little solo, and the times when I didn’t get to solo, I’d say to myself next year I’m going to get it,” she recalled.
At Humphrey Middle School she sang in the choir and concentrated on piano lessons.
But the real boost toward a music career came at BHS, courtesy of then Choir Director Richard Anderson, where she was a member of Sunrise Singers, Jazz Choir and small Madrigal ensembles. She also participated in every fall play and spring musical.
“When I got to high school I knew I was either going to be a vocal performer or a music teacher,” the honor student said. “I was so inspired by Mr. Anderson.”
Upon graduation from North Central with a Bachelor’s Degree in vocal performance and music education with an emphasis on choral conducting, Battista-Sullivan began her teaching career at Memorial Elementary School in Tinley Park. She also spent four years as a music teacher and choir director at an Oswego middle school, directed show choirs at Oswego High School and had the opportunity to teach in several private schools while writing music curriculum for Lemont public schools and running her own vocal and piano studio.
After teaching at the ethnically diverse Cicero West Elementary School where “I learned so much from the culture there,” she came to Valley View in 2010 as a traveling music teacher where she taught for two years at R.C. Hill and Hermansen in Romeoville during one semester and then would switch at the semester to Salk and Pioneer and Skoff.
In her third year with the district, she moved to R.C. Hill in Romeoville for a semester and both King and Skoff in Romeoville for a semester.
“I got used to being the Energizer Bunny, moving from school to school,” Battista-Sullivan said.
While at Hill, she conducted a choir and was able to work with VVSD music legend Dave Rice. She is starting a choir at Salk and plans to re-build Tibbott’s choir in the spring.
“We have a very unique elementary music team. VVSD has people who believe in music and want to see our curriculum grow,” she said. “We work well together and have a passion to make our music curriculum more rigorous.”
These days, in her spare time, Battista-Sullivan is pursuing her Master’s Degree in what she terms “my passion” special education and music therapy. She continues to teach voice and piano to all ages; judges competitions at other schools; performs in vocal competitions, at weddings, and at parties; hosts Saturday night karaoke at Shanahan’s in Woodridge; and will direct the Children’s Chorus for Bolingbrook High School’s spring play “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in March.
As for advice for a new teacher just starting a career: “Don’t ever forget why you do what you do. It’s because of your passion and your love for kids.”