On February 17, 2016, the St. Tammany Parish School Board hosted the Education Day for the 2016 Leadership St. Tammany class. I had been asked to give a presentation integrating technology into my music classes.
For my presentation, I used a promethean board, an interactive whiteboard that connects to your computer, and a “flipchart” that I had created. The flipchart was for a kindergarten lesson based on the nursery rhyme, “Bow-Wow-Wow”. Along with demonstrating how the flipchart reinforced reading skills, I showed how I used it to introduce the kindergartners to rhythm using visual icons. I had used a picture of a bone to represent a quarter note, sneakers for eight notes, and a dog house for a quarter rest. I then modeled creating a four beat pattern with these icons asked the Leadership class to clap the pattern with me. The class loved it when I asked them to play the rhythm using boomwhackers. Boomwhackers are plastic tubes that are tuned to specific pitches. Next, I explained how I would later ask the students to work in small groups to create their own rhythm patterns to perform. I ended my presentation with describing how I would use the flipchart in another lesson. For that lesson, I would play a pattern, and the class would have to notate what I performed on the promethean board.
Along with my presentation, there were several other speakers including our district administrators. While listening to the presentations by Mr. Folse, Mr. Cosse, Mr. Jabbia, and Dr. Sanford, I found myself listening with new ears. I was already familiar with much of the information they were relaying. However, I began to think of the current national educational issues and concerns that I have learned about while serving as the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. Nationally, there has been great attention focused on recruiting and retaining teachers as many districts throughout the country are facing teaching shortages. In Mr. Jabbia’s presentation, he pointed out that all of the teachers in St. Tammany are certified. For the district’s job fair, he said that we usually have over 500 attendees interviewing for around 100 positions. He also shared how members of our district attend job fairs at other locations in order to recruit.
Dr. Sanford spoke about the St. Tammany Advantage Rewards (STAR) program where the district has worked with businesses throughout our community to provide discounts for educators. While she was speaking, I thought about Shawn Sheehan, the 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and Finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He was the founder of the Teach Like Me campaign that is focused on teacher recruitment and retention. In one of his recent videos, he was sharing how a national clothing chain provides discounts to educators.
While planning to share the information about the STAR program with Shawn, I began to think about Bing Crosby’s song, “Count Your Blessings”. There are many wonderful things that are taking place in the St. Tammany Parish School System. As State Teacher of the Year, I am thankful that I now have the opportunity to share with the nation St. Tammany’s wonderful initiatives for recruiting and retaining teachers. Tonight, I will, “Just count (my) blessings instead of sheep, and (I’ll) fall asleep counting (my) blessings.”