Dr. Russell Zimmer
San Francisco, CA
Music Teacher, Trumpet Player/Instructor
Morgan Hill USD
Briefly describe your daily job duties.
My daily job duties involve teaching and interacting with nearly three hundred middle school students in addition to a handful of private trumpet students. Although not daily, I also perform trumpet professionally in a variety of musical settings from classical to jazz.
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
As a person who stutters, one of the most challenging parts of my job is maintaining fluency strategies to help deliver effective and clear instruction to my students, especially through difficult and more stressful days.
Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
No, I try to not make stuttering something that defines me.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
As a teacher, it helps me feel more sympathetic and connected towards students’ various needs. I can also serve as a positive example for students that our character flaws (or strengths!) can make us a stronger individual with a special superpower that others may not have.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
The proudest moment so far would have been the first performance of the middle school band with me as the director. There was a lot of anticipation built up with “the new teacher” and unknown expectations of how the band would sound under my direction. The performance had the largest audience to date with (unfortunately) family and friends standing outside trying to hear the band (over 500 audience members). That night I successfully conducted four ensembles totally 300 students for a total of two and half hours by myself. I prepared performance notes which I read aloud and let the adrenaline help lead me through fluency, using pauses in a structured and meaningful manner. I was dumbfounded by the positive response from the parents afterwards.
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I started my career somewhat late, not fully anticipating where I would be. I feel that I have reached a peak of where I see myself career-wise. I see myself possibly working at the college level at some point, but I am enjoying being an influential force for the developing, somewhat chaotic, middle school mind. In addition to being a teacher and performer, I see myself writing a couple of books related to music and overcoming life challenges.
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
Like many others have said, don’t let stuttering define you. I found it helpful to treat speaking like with music practice. The concept of “practice makes permanent” rings truth in all aspects of life. Find time to mindfully practice speaking in a constructive manner and time to center oneself. It’s important to truly “let go” of some of our inner struggles and focus on doing your job to the best of your abilities.