I love Woodlake’s music room. It’s a warm, welcoming space that is filled with vibrant colors. Even better, it’s a room that is alive with the magic of sound. It calls for my students to push the limits of their imagination. What a special space for all at Woodlake!
On the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but recall my old classroom and the sinking feeling I experienced when I read the e-mail that it had been flooded. When I returned to school, I found a construction crew from the St. Tammany Parish School District already hard at work repairing the damage. All of the items from my room had been moved into the library hallway, and I was touched by the numerous teachers that helped me sort through the items to see what could be salvaged. The weekend before the students returned to school, my parents drove in from Alabama to help me move what had been saved back into the music room and decorate it.
Although the students immediately noticed the changes, their disappointment was short lived. It was amazing how many people throughout the country came forward to donate funds and instruments. We turned each gift into a celebration, and the students experienced an amazing lesson about the importance of generosity.
Now, each instrument in my room has an extraordinary story- one of compassion, love, perseverance, and resilience. For all of those in St. Tammany Parish and across the country that came forward to help, I would like to say that “You Are Woodlake Elementary School’s Sunshine”.
I can remember singing the round “Make New Friends” as a kid. However, I never really understood the meaning of the lyrics “one is silver and the other gold”. It has only been with time that I have learned the true value of new friends and old friends. As the State Teacher of the Year, I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunities to “make new friends” while furthering my relationships with “old friends”.
On August 21, 2015, I had the chance to meet many dedicated and knowledgeable educators at the meeting for the Northshore Reading Council. I was especially interested in hearing about their Young Authors competition where the winners will have their work published in a book. What an amazing accomplishment! They also have many opportunities for professional development in the year ahead. As I love to integrate children’s literature into my music lessons, I am eagerly looking forward to taking part in these activities.
Along with representatives from the St. Tammany Parish School District, I met with the members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) on August 24, 2015. It was an extremely productive meeting where we discussed the means for increasing school participation in the LPO’s educational programs. I was proud to announce that Woodlake Elementary has already registered for the Early Explorers field trip. Last year, the parents and teachers at my school could not stop raving about this experience. They loved how the students were able to see the instruments of the orchestra in stations followed by the opportunity to hear the orchestra perform as an ensemble. This year the Early Explorers field trip will also be integrating math with counting. I can’t wait to hear the field trip reviews from my students! The LPO also has many great programs for older students. To learn more about the LPO’s educational programs, please visit their site: https://lpomusic.com/Online/default.asp
In each instance, I have made connections that will greatly impact my students’ learning. Without a doubt, “one is silver and the other gold”.
The day was a medley of new and familiar tunes as I attended the Red Stick Orff workshop on August 15, 2015. Red Stick Orff is a chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA), and it’s dedicated to the professional development of music educators in Southeast Louisiana. Our workshops are based on the Orff-Schulwerk approach where music is taught through singing, dancing, speaking, moving, playing instruments, and creating. Imitation, experimentation, and self expression are at the heart of the Orff-Schulwerk pedagogy. As the Treasurer and founding member of this chapter, I took great pleasure in comparing Saturday’s workshop to our humble beginnings where a small group of music educators sought a means for networking and sharing. On Saturday, we had teachers from seven different parishes attend our workshop in Hammond, LA. This means over 14,000 students will be impacted from this one workshop.
Our clinician for the workshop was Brent Holl. Mr. Holl has had great experience teaching classroom music for middle school ages, and he owns Beatin’ Path Publications which publishes resource materials for music educators. The main focus of the workshop was the ostinato. An ostinato is a short, repeated phrase or rhythm. As he explained, the ostinato provides “immediate success” while creating opportunities for “complexity”. He also stated that it helps children develop their memory, physical coordination, expression, and listening skills. Throughout the workshop, the teachers were asked to collaborate and share ideas. There was also much laughter. Yes, we had to laugh at ourselves as we created an ostinato inspired by the movements and sounds of chickens. I loved the activity so much that I immediately began contemplating how to extend it by connecting it to the jazzy “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”.
In the end, I along with the other teachers left the workshop feeling inspired. There are so many ways to create and explore music. The key is to understand our students and adapt what we learned at the workshop to meet their needs.
Please check out the following links for more information about Red Stick Orff, AOSA, and Beatin’ Path Publications:
I’m excited to announce that I have been selected by the Saints organization to be a “Teacher of the Week”, and I will be featured during the Saints opening game on September 20, 2015. Last Friday, a third grade class experienced a lesson they will never forget when representatives from the Saints organization came to film me teach.
When I heard about the visit, I immediately thought of the story my students enjoy: “One Dat, Two Dat, Are You a Who Dat?” by Cornell P. Landry. I had been inspired to create a music lesson based on this story when Mr. Landry came to speak for our “Cultural Arts Day” two years ago. Using words found in the book, I had created a chant that could be interspersed throughout the story.
I began with using my new ActivPanel to help students visualize that the chant would be divided into three parts and performed with body percussion (pat, clap, and snap). Once this was successful, we added in percussion instruments and performed it with the story. On the last page, the students determined that a crescendo would be necessary as each word on the page got bigger.
While performing, the students also discovered that there is a pattern of “question and answer” throughout the story. I then asked the students to create movements to accompany the words in the first question. I held my breath as I waited to see if the camera would make the students afraid to think creatively. Then, a hand went up with a suggestion. It wasn’t a great idea, but it got the conversation going. Suddenly, the kids were laughing and sharing without any reservation.
In the end, the students created something that they could be proud to show the rest of the world. At the same time, I was grateful for this opportunity to once again show that music, sports, and literature are actually connected. When blended together, the students have the opportunity to shine.
Be sure to check back in September to find out more about my experience being a “Teacher of the Week” for the Saints.
On the 6th of August, I was thrilled to be recognized by the St. Tammany Parish Council. During the council meeting, a special presentation was made by Martin Gould, District 5 Parish Councilman, and Patricia Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. I was deeply touched by the words on the plaque that I received: “We appreciate your love for this state, (and) your service to St. Tammany Parish”.
As I was given the opportunity to speak, I couldn’t help but think of the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Along with explaining my message as the State Teacher of the Year, I spoke of the reasons why I have chosen to make St. Tammany Parish my home. I love that the arts are considered to be a valuable part of our community. From art festivals to outdoor concerts, you will find the arts being celebrated throughout St. Tammany Parish. It’s also incredibly inspiring to teach in a community with such a rich music history. From our Cultural Icons like Louis Prima to the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall, I am proud to keep that history alive as a music teacher. Lastly, arts education is valued by the St. Tammany Parish School District. I believe that commitment to the arts plays an important role in the academic success of our students. Because the arts are at the heart of St. Tammany Parish, I was convinced to “make this place my home”.
“Anything you want to- do it. Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it.”
As I arrived at the Louisiana Department of Education yesterday, it was if someone was serenading me with the song “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Instead of finding a room filled with sweet treats, I discovered a room brimming with possibilities. It was my first day to serve on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) committee for Educator Effectiveness. As the meeting commenced, I was excited about the chance to gain insights into the Louisiana Department of Education. I was also thrilled to be serving as a voice for my students and fellow educators.
The topic of the meeting was the consideration of a program where regular education teachers can add a certification in mild/moderate special education. In order to receive this additional certificate, the teachers would need to complete 280 contact hours of training. After several representatives from the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators (LRCE) Certification Solutions spoke, the program was approved.
Also at the meeting, the board members honored Carla Jackson, the 2015 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year for her participation on the committee. Both Carla and I were then asked to address the board. Carla spoke of the things she learned from attending the committee meetings. I expressed my gratitude for being able to serve my students in a greater capacity.
I now have the opportunity to make a great impact on education in Louisiana. Yes, all I have to do is “simply look around and view it”.
As I drove to school today, the lyrics of “Feelin’ Good” were dancing through my mind. The first day of school is “a new dawn, a new day”. It’s a new opportunity to change a child’s life, and I was “feelin’ good”. I couldn’t wait to see returning students and meet the new ones. I was anticipating the excitement when the students discovered our theme is Super Heroes-“Where Everybody Soars”. However, I was also entering into “a new life”. I knew this first day of school would not be like any other I had ever experienced.
My day began with the superintendent of my school system, Mr. Trey Folse, visiting my school. Along with Mr. Folse, there were other school board representatives and members of the press. They took pictures and filmed as I taught my first class. Mr. Folse made a lovely speech and presented me with a plaque. Following the lesson, I answered interview questions for Channel 13. During all of this, I was beaming with pride. My students had eagerly embraced this new experience, and it was a day that they will never forget.
The rest of the day was just as exciting. Upon entering the music room, each class would immediately remark on all of the changes. The biggest change they noticed was the new ActivPanel that I had won for being named the State Teacher of the Year. I heard it described as “a giant iPad” and “a movie screen”. Either way, the students thought it was really “COOL!”
As I watched the children board the busses this afternoon, I knew without a doubt that they were all “feelin’ good” about school.
Wow! It is such an honor to be writing my first blog as the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. In July, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Dream Teachers organization put on an amazing awards gala. They took the audience back through time to old Hollywood glamour. From the red carpet to the big band jazz music, I reveled in every minute of the celebration. When my name was called, I was immediately overcome with shock, joy, and excitement. As I walked through the cheering crowd, a song began to play in my heart- “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. My journey had begun! I can’t wait to share with you the next step in this amazing journey. Stay tuned!