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The Winnetka Public Schools uses the Understanding by Design approach to curriculum development and documentation. This framework is used to design learning experiences and assessment with the end in mind: student outcomes.   The identified student outcomes are categorized into three types: Know, Understand and Do (KUD). Transfer goals and essential questions are also part of the Understanding by Design framework as well. Transfer goals consider how and when students will use the skills, knowledge and understandings learned in particular units to other learning and life experiences.  Whereas essential questions are thought-provoking questions that will foster inquiry, meaning-making, and transfer.

To view the transfer goals, essential questions, as well as “KUDs” for this content area, please click the link below.  To view the “KUDs” by grade level, please visit the grade level “Curriculum Summaries” in the left-hand menu.



Students in the Winnetka Public Schools will build a long-lasting personal connection to music in order to actively explore, enjoy, and engage with music throughout their lives.

Key Beliefs

In alignment with the District 36 Portrait of a Graduate, the goal of the music program in the Winnetka Public Schools is that all students will develop the skills to:

  • Be informed consumers of music (Global citizen, empathetic)

  • Engage in the musical processes of reflection, revision, and performance (Resilient, collaborative, creative problem solver)

  • Convey emotions, ideas, and meaning through music (Effective communicator)

  • Develop an identity as a musician by discovering personal connections to music through creating, performing, and responding. (Lifelong learner)


Co-authors of this document used a blended approach to align curriculum to standards, choosing to use both the 2016 Illinois Arts Learning Standards and the 2014 National Core Arts Standards to inform and describe teaching and learning within District 36.

Meet the Teachers

Betsy Balkin- Skokie Music 

Betsy began teaching music at Skokie in 2012 after receiving her Masters in Music Education from Northwestern University. Prior to that, Betsy attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she majored in both vocal performance and music education. After college, she ran a middle school and high school choral program in the Columbus, OH area for two years before moving to Illinois to be closer to family. While she started teaching with an emphasis on choral music, Betsy has loved exploring the world of general music here at Skokie. It has been such fun developing curriculum that has kids playing all sorts of instruments as well as engaging in the many non-performance aspects of being a musician. Betsy also directs the Skokie Chorus. Outside of school Betsy enjoys watching sports (Go Pack Go!), cooking, and spending time with her husband, two children, and puggle, Ralph.

Yue Cai - Greeley and Hubbard Woods Elementary Strings

Yue has been teaching elementary strings in the Winnetka Public Schools since 2021.

Prior to joining District 36, Yue taught Chinese at Kede College of Capital Normal University, Beijing, China. She was a Music Teacher/Translator in 2014 at Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China. Yue currently teaches Mandarin at Xilin NorthShore Chinese School. Yue has also worked at both New Trier High School and the New Trier Extension School teaching Mandarin. She also taught in District 205 in Elmhurst as a long-term Orchestra and string teacher substitute. Yue got her B.A. of Musicology in 2008 from the Music College of Hebei Normal University and an M.A. in Violin Performance from Music College of Southwest University in 2011. Yue is thrilled to be part of the D36 string program and has enjoyed working with her students to share her love of the violin! Outside of school, Yue enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Andrew Chester - Skokie and Washburne Band

Mr. Chester teaches 5th - 8th Grade Band and Jazz Band at The Skokie School and Carleton Washburne School. He joined the Winnetka Public Schools Music Department in 2019 after beginning his career in a long-term substitute role teaching 5th-8th Band and Orchestra in NSSD #112 and K-8th Music at CICS West Belden, a non-profit charter school located in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood. While at CICS West Belden, he curated curriculum for and taught a technology-intensive K-4th Modern Music program, 5th-8th Band, and other middle school electives such as The History of Hip-Hop, Ukulele, and Improvisation Ensemble. Outside of school, Mr. Chester works as a clinician of Bands and keeps an active playing and private lesson studio on trombone, saxophone, and bass guitar. Mr. Chester attended Schaumburg High School in Schaumburg, IL and received his B.A.  in Music Education from DePaul University in 2018. When he’s not teaching or playing music, Mr. Chester enjoys golfing, fishing, and spending time with his cats, Jerry and Tina.

Carey Crows- General Music, Crow Island School

Carey began teaching general music and choir at Crow Island in 2023. Carey received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Miami, and her Masters in Music Education from Northwestern University. Prior to joining the Winnetka community, Carey taught music in Glenview, Downers Grove, and in several community music schools in Chicago. In addition to her studies in the US, Carey studied West African drumming, xylophone, and dance in Ghana, West Africa, and upon her return, has coordinated artist-in-residence programs in Downers Grove and Winnetka with the musicians from the Dagara Music Center in Ghana. Outside of school, Carey keeps her musicianship alive by performing professionally in choirs throughout Chicagoland, and is an active volunteer with organizations such as Musicians on Call and FORCE. In her spare time, she loves to cook, bake, travel, learn, and spend time with her family.

Lainey Hewitt- General Music Greeley School

Lainey Hewitt has taught general music at Greeley since 2022. She studied music and dance education at Elmhurst University before coming to District 36. Lainey’s love of music was prevalent throughout her life, through Kindermusik, band, choir, musical theater, and more. Music has always played a big role in her life, and she loves to be able to share that passion with her students. Through singing, play, literacy, movement, instruments, composition, and more, she cultivates a musical experience that is fun and engaging for students. In addition to singing, Lainey plays piano and guitar. When she is not in the classroom, Lainey enjoys reading, writing, and spending time outside.

Sheryl Nussbaum - Crow Island Elementary Strings; Skokie/Washburne Orchestra

Sheryl joined the Winnetka school community in 1992 after finishing a double masters in Cello performance and music education at Northwestern University (Class of ‘92). Sheryl received a Bachelor of Arts degree in cello performance from the University of Illinois in 1989. The District 36, 2nd through 8th grade string and orchestra program currently has well over 200 students. Many of her former students have gone on to perform and teach throughout the US. Sheryl began cello lessons at age eight and has always known that music would be a big part of her adult life. String education has been the best way to keep her passion for strings alive! In addition to a robust teaching schedule, Ms. Nussbaum also enjoys adjudicating both organizational and solo/ensemble contests in the Northern Illinois area! Outside of school, Ms. Nussbaum enjoys rooting for the White Sox, Bears, and Northwestern Wildcats! In addition, she enjoys spending time with her husband Ethan and son Jack.

Melissa Vincent- Washburne Vocal Music

Stephen Vowles - Skokie and Washburne Band 

Mr. Vowles teaches instrumental music at The Skokie School and The Carleton Washburne School, where we work together exploring musical instruments and learning how music works from the inside out. He joined Winnetka #36 in 1998. He lives with his wife Devon in Glencoe, where she appreciates that he practices his French Horn at school. His original hometown is Fairfax, Vermont. Before joining Winnetka, Mr. Vowles taught high school and middle school at Westtown School in Pennsylvania and rebuilt music programs in Thornton Fractional North High School, Lincoln Elementary School, and Burnham Elementary School in Calumet City, Illinois. Mr. Vowles studied at Oberlin Conservatory, Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and Music Education (1989,1990); Northwestern University, Master of Music (1994) and Postgraduate Study (1999-2008); and WestChester University, Philosophy (1992).

Gary Wendt- Hubbard Woods School

In addition to teaching music, Gary is a Producer of WGST, the 4th-grade student-run television studio. Prior to that, he taught at Lyon Elementary School in Glenview as well as in Chicago and Wisconsin. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in music education, did graduate work at DePaul University of Chicago, and received a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from WGU. He is the Founder of The Innocent Wisdom Project, a research compilation of inquiry-based arts education projects. Gary has worked with the education programs of the Chicago Chamber Musicians, The Chicago Children’s Choir, and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Gary has worked collaboratively for many years with the music education program at Northwestern University through guest lectures and presentations. He also works with student teachers and practicum students. When he is not at school, Gary is Director of Music and Organist at Glenview Community Church, directing the handbell choir, a woodwind quartet, and managing the Simple Gifts Concert Series.