Staff Spotlight: Paul Niemand

Join us as we sit down with Paul Niemand, Academic Coach at Holston Academy, long-time educator, and music enthusiast.

Holston Academy’s Staff Spotlight series helps you get to know our educators before you and your student work directly with them! In this series, you’ll learn what they love most about their roles with Holston Academy, the learning philosophies and strategies they bring to the table, and how meaningful it is to them to help students like yours succeed and thrive.

Introducing Paul Niemand, an Academic Coach at Holston Academy!

Holston Academy: What drew you to Holston Academy?

Paul Niemand: Megan O’Reilly Palevich (Holston Academy’s Executive Director) and I had previously worked together in the educational field, and she approached me about the prospect of working at Holston Academy to introduce a learning program that would be a transformative and uplifting experience for teachers, students, and their families through academic coaching and personalized learning.

HA: As an Academic Coach, what do you offer the students with whom you work?

PN: I am a devoted and innovative educator with experience in a variety of capacities and grade levels in brick-and-mortar, hybrid learning, microlearning communities, and virtual learning contexts. I strive to inspire students to grow and develop a passion for personalized learning and to achieve their educational and life goals.

HA: What do you enjoy most about your role as an Academic Coach?

PN: The gift of training and inspiring other teachers, as well as teaching students academically while supporting them to thrive socially, and building an inspiring learning and enrichment environment that speaks to, and develops, their whole being.

HA: Is there a difference in the way you interact with students who are thriving versus, say, students who may be struggling with school?

PN: No, there is no overall difference in the care and earnest guidance with which I support students. It is important to note that the states of thriving and struggling are both contexts that all learners will encounter at some point in their lives, and I strive to impress upon students the value of developing the ability and grace to collaborate, plan, understand, and innovate specific techniques to succeed while navigating either context as lifelong learners.

HA: What do you think Holston Academy offers that other schools, whether online or traditional, don’t?

PN: Access to a vast amount of inspiring courses and electives, as well as the ability for students to thrive in microlearning communities while being supported by a dedicated and cohesive team of Academic Coaches, teachers, and tutors. Plus, we provide a personalized learning plan supported by assessments and college counseling that meets the student at their current level of learning, with the goal of supporting them in attaining their educational and life goals in an uplifting and balanced way.

HA: How did your past experiences prepare you for your role with Holston Academy?

PN: I have been a devoted and innovative educator since 1991, with experience in personalizing student learning plans, curriculum design, and developing school community cultures in brick-and-mortar, hybrid learning, microschools, and virtual learning contexts.

HA: What has been your favorite part about being an Academic Coach with Holston Academy?

PN: Getting to know my students and their families while guiding them to sound learning strategies and an enduring and unshakeable confidence and self-awareness, as well as a playful curiosity to continue learning and challenging themselves.

HA: Music is an important element in your life. How do you integrate your love of music into what you do at Holston Academy?

PN: I write music curriculum, connect with my students through conversations about listening to, playing, or creating music, and share insight into the supportive and beneficial nature of sound for health and clarity derived from my experience as a professional musician and sound therapist. Moreover, I am an Ethnomusicologist and love to speak to the origins of music and music’s role in the development and preservation of culture, history, and traditions.

HA: What is your favorite music-related accomplishment?

PN: Being a multi-instrumentalist and having an uncanny ability to pick up and master any musical instrument that comes into my life.

HA: Do you have any favorite music-related memories?

PN: My maternal grandparents sang to me when I was a newborn, and I was described as looking like a violin-playing baby rather than a rugby-playing baby. I was a small baby, by the way (laughs).

HA: What do you like to do in your spare time?

PN: I love to play music, create songs, rest and rejuvenate, eat sushi, garden, swim in the river in my backyard, and hang out with my adult children.

HA: Any favorite vacation or getaway spot?

PN: Camping on the beach along the river in my backyard (laughs)! I live on 4.5 acres and love connecting with the Earth while practicing mindfulness, playing music, and observing the wild animals and graceful birds that know the land as their home. The blue herons, hawks, eagles, owls, quail, woodpeckers, blue jays, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions nearby sharpen my sense of nature and the humility with which I live life.

HA: What are your all-time favorite:

  • Movies? 

PN: Being There and anything else with Peter Sellers.

  • Books?

PN: Anything and all by Herman Hesse.

  • TV shows?

PN: Unexplained on the History Channel.

  • Bands/musicians/singers?

PN: I especially treasure and appreciate historic and contemporary recordings of Indigenous musicians. For example, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Indigenous Australians, Native Americans, the Bayaka People, Solomon Islanders, the Alan Lomax Recordings, the Sami people, as well as East Indian Ragas with Sitar, Voice, and Tabla.

A few musicians and bands that inspire me and from whom I draw inspiration and learning are Miles Davis, Nick Drake, Nina Simone, Neil Young, the Beatles, Queen, Savuka, Lloyd Cole, Ravi Shankar, Blancmange, China Crisis, Nick Cave, Baka Beyond, Bob Dylan, The Verve, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Jack Johnson, John Coltrane, New Order, the Swans, Dead Can Dance, Leon Parker, Toumani Diabate, Swell, John Lennon, Soul Coughing, Ali Farka Toure, and Tinariwen.

HA: Any pets? If so, what type?

PN: Yes, I have a wonderful and loving cat named King who is my constant companion now that I am an empty nester. He is a tuxedo cat that is 10 years old.

Many thanks to Paul for his time and for his wonderful work with Holston Academy teachers and students! Stay tuned for the next Staff Spotlight!

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