podcastED: Florida Virtual School teacher infuses core subject lessons with personalized songs

On this episode, reimaginED Senior Writer Lisa Buie talks with Michael Bonick, an elementary teacher and guitar player at Florida Virtual School, who engages students by incorporating music in core academic subjects.

A teacher for 22 years, Bonick’s interest in music blossomed when his father suggested that he play the saxophone to address an injury that prevented him from moving his right arm. Bonick, who was 7 at the time, quickly lost interest in the sax but later taught himself how to play the guitar because his condition created a challenge, and he thought his success would inspire students someday.

Bonick began his academic career as a pre-school teacher, transitioned to teaching elementary students, and joined Florida Virtual School in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Despite campus re-openings, Bonick never looked back.

He always shows up for his online classes with his guitar and composes ditties on the spot that incorporate students’ names with the concepts he’s teaching.

“The first day I taught at the preschool, and we had lunch and I walked out, and I thought, ‘Okay are you going to walk back into that classroom?’ It was one of those defining moments … I said, ‘Go back. It’ll be the best decision you ever made.’ And it was. It has been for 22 years.”


  •  Bonick’s desire early in life to become a teacher amid his own academic struggles
  • Why Bonick believes preschool experience is the best preparation for teaching any grade
  • How Bonick taught himself to play guitar
  • Which Beatle inspired Bonick to write songs without being able to read music
  • How Bonick uses music and movement to boost students’ confidence in subjects such as math and reading
  • How Bonick’s persistence earned his class a visit from a rock star

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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.