Tag Archives: Boston Public Schools

Cheryl McNeil

Cheryl McNeil

Interview: How to Harmonize with Cheryl McNeil

Cheryl McNeil is a teacher of music at Boston Public Schools whose students come from all over the world. Being so dedicated as she is, she decided she would then visit other countries besides her own to learn from her students’ perspective.

Below is a summary of our interview:


“Every job is a self-portrait of yourself. The person who did autographed your work with excellence.”

The Journey

Since Cheryl was young, she’s always loved music and she always loved singing. In third grade, Cheryl was harmonizing with her mother at church. Harmonizing at church, she felt safe because everyone just smiled along.  Years later she searched for music jobs and found Music Therapy. Cheryl went on to pursue music therapy at Berklee College of Music.

After college, it was difficult to find a job. So Cheryl took one working with special needs students. It was one of the hardest and humbling jobs. She had to teach the same thing over and over. After that job, she found she could apply music therapy to any population and ended up working with older people.

Preparing lesson plans for the elderly led Cheryl to go down the road to try teaching in the classroom. She heard of an opening at a school in Boston that might be coming up. She ended up applying for the position and got it. She is now a teacher at Boston Public Schools.

When Cheryl needed to get a Masters, she signed up for grad school in Switzerland. Next summer, she’s going to Ecuador to brush up on her Spanish.

Low Point

Her first year of teaching, in the first day, a kid picked up his shoe and threw it at someone else and she had to figure out what she was going to do about it. And it was hard to figure out how she was going to be her best self in the next 6 months.

Aha Moment

She started keeping a journal where anything positive happened during the day, she’d remember it when she had a difficult moment. Little tiny victories, like getting a student to perform in front of his peers, for Cheryl make her believe she was in the right spot.

Cheryl’s work now 

She runs a music program (as a volunteer) for Zumix, a nonprofit in East Boston. Sheryl and her co-teacher teach kindergarten through 8th grade, including students with special needs. Her students come from 46 different countries.

Cheryl hopes to create a program for pop music song writing ensemble alongside music that honors the cultures and identities of her students. Her biggest challenge now is that she needs to better include students who are just learning English for the first time. To differentiate her teaching is her biggest struggle, but also something she’s excited about.

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Lightning Round

Book Cheryl Recommends

Phillipa Gregory is Cheryl’s favorite author

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Helpful Habit:

Balancing her work and family and sports life.

Helpful Person:

Vice principal Mr. Johnson. She really appreciates him.

Internet Resource

Facebook page, Humans of New York.

What’s Your Purpose

To help others and to help spread knowledge. She wants to be a sponge and to change as a reflection of the individuals she comes into contact with.

Where to follow Cheryl

Her email: Cherylmcneil22@gmail.com

Parting Words

Something she learned was every single human being comes from a different place and experience. Nothing makes anyone better than other people so it’s important to be a sponge and learn from everyone and don’t take things personally.

One More Thing

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