Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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Pictured with Dr. Jill Biden

During the first week of May, I had the incredible honor of attending the National Teacher of the Year Recognition in Washington DC. As I boarded my plane on May 1, 2016, I knew that I was in for the adventure of a lifetime. In the weeks prior to this trip, the State Teachers of the Year (STOYs) had received information regarding our activities for the week. However, there were many details that remained unclear. Going into this trip, my motto had become, “Expect the unexpected”. The very first day of the trip certainly lived up to that expectation.

After a joyful reunion in the lobby of our hotel, the STOYs and each of our guests boarded a bus to attend a reception at the Biden’s residence. On our way, our bus driver shared information about each embassy that we passed. There was much cheering after he informed us that he had been named the “Conductor of the Year” for his company. After waiting for the Secret Service to complete the security checks, we exited the bus and walked toward the gates of the Vice President’s home. As you can imagine, the progress was very slow due to all the pictures we were taking.

My eyes were wide as I entered the foyer of the Biden’s home. We were greeted cordially and served hors d’oeuvres by members of the Vice President’s staff. As I visited each room on the main floor, I couldn’t help but notice the family photographs. In every room, it was clear that this was truly a “home”.

I was standing in a room watching a string quartet perform when I suddenly heard a loud cheer come from the foyer. When I joined the crowd, my jaw dropped. Vice President Biden was standing at the podium joking with the crowd. We had been expecting to see just his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. This was the first time that the Vice President had taken part in this reception.

Vice President Biden’s and Dr. Biden’s respect for the teaching profession rang clear as they each addressed the crowd. Dr. Biden shared why she chose to continue teaching even while her husband served as our Vice President. Her husband joked about Dr. Biden lugging around a giant bag filled with her students’ papers. Dr. Biden also spoke about her work on behalf of children whose parents serve in the military. As she shared her stories, I thought of my own students who have been impacted by a parent’s military service.

Following their speeches, we were informed that each STOY and their guest would be able to take a picture with the Bidens in the library. Although I should have been toward the end of the line, a representative directed me and three other STOYs to follow him to the front of the line. I was given a card with my name and my state written on it. When I entered the library, I handed the card to a member of the staff and he introduced my mom and me to the Bidens.

Following a quick picture, the Vice President asked me what city I lived in, and he told me that he had just recently spoken at Tulane. After exchanging a few more words, I was escorted out of the library and to the Biden’s pool house. There, I was informed that I had been selected to do a media interview for Spotify. While waiting for the cameras and equipment to be adjusted, I looked around in amazement. I was sitting in the Vice President’s pool house being filmed for an interview. How did I get here?

Following the interview, I returned to the merry celebration inside. Later, the STOYs were called out onto the porch to do a group photo. There was much cheering as we were joined again by the Bidens. Following the group picture, they both took more pictures and spoke with the visitors. I was amazed at how warm and welcoming they both were to all of the guests.

It wasn’t until after this incredible event that I discovered that Dr. Biden had been asked by Spotify to dedicate a song to teachers. She had chosen “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. This was a great choice as this is the mindset of all of my fellow STOYs. It is also the mindset of all of those that have helped me to become the teacher that I am today. Thank you for believing in me!

Stay tuned to see what happened next in my adventures in Washington DC!

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The 2016 State Teachers of the Year Pictured with the Bidens.
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Pictured with my mom, Marcelle Stomps

The Final Countdown

While walking into my classroom this morning, I began to sing, “It’s the final countdown.” I have just six days left before I head to Washington D.C. to be recognized along with my fellow State Teachers of the Year. Along with getting ready for this epic trip, these six days are jam-packed with activity.

For the next four days, I will be administering the LEAP test to five students that have testing accommodations based on their Individualized Education Program (IEP). After testing is completed each day, the enrichment teachers will be working to give each grade level a longer recess. On Friday, I will be heading to the Louisiana Department of Education for the second meeting of the Music Education Task Force. This meeting is extremely important as we will be discussing our priority goals for our recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Then, I will be attending a meeting for the Tulane Alumni Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi on Saturday. During this meeting, new members will be initiated into the chapter.

On Sunday, I will begin the adventure of a lifetime. Be sure to follow my adventure on Twitter @KellyStomps and on Facebook: Kelly Stomps 2016 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year!

Ease on Down the Road

Coffee Pic


On April 21, 2016, I had the privilege to take part in a presentation celebrating the top earning schools in Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools program. This fun celebration took place at Community Coffee’s home office in Baton Rouge.

At the beginning of the presentation, the guests were greeted by the owner of Community Coffee, Matt Saurage. Matt spoke about the 28 year history of the Cash for Schools program and said that the program aimed to create “pathways toward success” for students and schools. Next, I spoke about the impact the program has on our schools and said that it sends the message, “We believe in you.”

Then, the excitement began. Representatives including students, parents, and administrators from the top ten earning schools had been invited to attend. There was much anticipation as the amount for each school’s check was announced. I was amazed to hear the dollar amounts that were being awarded. The top earning school received a check for over $5,000. Amazing! The principal for that school said that their success was due to churches and other members of their community supporting the school’s involvement in the program.

Following the program, the guests were treated to delicious refreshments. As I had the opportunity to speak with the attendees, I enjoyed hearing about the plans each had for the money. From Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Labs to Accelerated Reader (AR) programs, it was clear that the money would indeed help the students “ease on down the road” to success.

This Magic Moment

PTA SpeechOn April 16, 2016, I had the honor of speaking during the Awards Banquet at the Louisiana State PTA Convention. The theme for the convention was “Abra-Cadabra, Alla-Kazoo! Let PTA Magic Inspire You!” As I walked into the banquet hall, I thought of “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters. With the fun decorations and the excited atmosphere, it was certainly a magical moment.

The banquet began with a welcome by the Louisiana PTA President, Reginald Coles. This was followed by Michelle Roy, the St. Tammany District President, sharing an inspirational message. Then, the attendees were treated to a delicious meal while visiting with the other members at their tables. Following dinner, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Bissonette spoke about the U.S. Army ROTC program and the qualities that they look for in their members.

Next, I spoke to the attendees about the “Magic of Music” where I shared my own story of discovering the magic in music. Over the past year, I have spoken a great deal about the music teachers that inspired me to also become a music educator. For this presentation, I focused on the integral parts my parents played in helping me along my journey to becoming a teacher. At the end, I shared tips for parents and PTA members for assisting the musical development of the children in Louisiana.

Following my speech, the ten teachers that had been named “Educator of Distinction” were recognized. While each honoree came forward to receive a plaque, information about each teacher was shared by Teresa Landry, the Tangipahoa District President. I loved hearing about the great work that was taking place in each educator’s classroom.

Then, individual awards were given to various PTA Units. I was extremely excited to hear Woodlake Elementary School’s PTA being called for awards for their website and newsletter. I know how hard our PTA works to keep our teachers and parents informed. The students are also thrilled when they see their pictures in our PTA’s wonderful newsletter.

Although there were many magical moments that evening, my favorite event was the announcement of the scholarship winners. The Louisiana PTA awarded four education majors a $1,000 scholarship. While the scholarship money was presented, Reginald Coles shared parts of their essays on why they wanted to be a teacher. While I found each of their words to be inspirational, I was especially moved by Brooke Mazac’s essay. In her essay, she spoke about her teachers trying to discourage her from entering into the teaching profession. However, she stated that “She didn’t just want to teach, she needed to teach.” I not only applaud her for following her passion, I know that she will be a great teacher.

As the evening’s events drew to a close, I was very thankful for this opportunity to be amongst such inspiring students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Together, we are making magic happen in our schools.



We Are the Champions

The winners of the Newcomb Tournament!



It was an exciting day for the third grade students at Woodlake Elementary School. Today, they competed in the Woodlake Newcomb Tournament.

For the past few weeks, our PE teachers, Ms. Shostak and Ms. Gaines, have been teaching the students how to play Newcomb. This is a ball game that is similar to volleyball. After competing during their PE lessons, four classes advanced to the semi-finals.

The Tournament today began with the students in Ms. Galloway’s class competing against Mrs. Pool’s students. The next battle was between Mrs. Kennedy’s and Mrs. Hall’s classes. In the end, Mrs. Hall’s and Ms. Galloway’s students came out on top. With the rest of the third grade cheering them on, these two classes competed in the final round.

It was fun to observe the students during this final round. The athletes were so serious and focused. It was also impressive to see the students coaching each other throughout the competition. At the same time, the rest of the third grade was entertaining as they cheered their favorite team. In the end, Ms. Galloway’s team was unstoppable.

Following the tournament, medal and ribbons were presented to the first, second, and third place teams. Each child was so proud that I was reminded of athletes during the medal ceremonies in the Olympics. Ms. Galloway also received a giant trophy to display in her classroom until next year’s tournament.

Even though Ms. Galloway’s class was declared the winner of the Newcomb Tournament, I believe that all of the third grade students were the champions today. The displays of good sportsmanship and teamwork made each and every person at Woodlake proud. Thank you to Ms. Shostak, Ms. Gaines, the third grade teachers, and the third grade students for this inspiring day!


Somwhere blog

“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us.” – Somewhere by Leonard Bernstein

 A few weeks ago, I saw on Twitter a link to a documentary titled “Teachers and Teaching” that featured the great Leonard Bernstein. As I am not only a teacher but a huge fan of his musical works, I had to view it.

While he spent a great deal of time talking about the teachers that impacted his musical growth, there was one part that stood out to me. Early in the video, Bernstein stated that his parents refused to pay for his private lessons on the piano. In order to pay for his own lessons, he began teaching lessons to children that were younger than him. He goes on to share how this helped him grow as a musician. Along with this, he stated, “When I teach, I learn. When I learn, I teach”.

Yesterday, I couldn’t help but recall these words. Almost every grade had a lesson that involved working in small groups to compose. While the students worked, I traveled from group to group. In every group, I discovered countless examples proving Bernstein’s statement to be true. The children are not just students. They are music teachers guiding each other on their musical journey. By taking on the roles of the student and the teacher, they are discovering that there is “a place for us” in music.

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Along with performances for our school’s morning meetings, each grade level performs following a PTA meeting. For this year, third grade did a performance called “Math Rocks” while kindergarten’s performance was all about using their imagination. Last night, first grade took the audience to the movies. In May, second grade will be performing, “Meet the Presidents.”Although it may sound strange, I actually began planning the performances for this school year last April.

When it comes to planning, my procedures can vary. Sometimes, I start with a specific theme in mind. Then, I will comb through my materials and music catalogs looking for music that fits within that theme. Other times, I’m unsure about the direction I want to take. Instead, I search through my music books and speak to other teachers looking for inspiration. Depending on the resources that I find, I may piece together a performance using music from a lot of different sources or I may find a program that is already written that will work. Next, I write the script for the performance. Once I have everything completed, I look at my calendar and figure out which PTA meeting date would be best for that grade level’s performance. Once I have the general dates established, I then predict the amount of time that will be needed to prepare the students for their performance. This is why it is necessary for me to begin searching for programs in April. Each program will determine the direction and pace of my music curriculum for the year.

While I do much in regards to planning and preparation, the entire faculty and staff at Woodlake Elementary School assist me in many other aspects of the performances. Teachers with artistic talents help with backdrops. All teachers help coordinate speaking parts and other performance logistics. Ms. Shostak, our PE teacher, adjusts her schedule so that we may use her gym. It truly is a team effort.

Performances can be stressful and extremely time-consuming. However, I forget all of that once the night of the performance arrives, and I see the excitement on the children’s faces. Over the years, I have felt many different emotions when the kids take stage. During our first grade performance last night, it was one of the few times that a performance has brought tears of joy to my eyes. I believe that every child has a song to be sung. One of my students sang with such enthusiasm and expression, that he touched my heart. This is why I am a music teacher. While Irving Berlins’ song says, “There’s no business like show business.” I believe that there’s no greater business than education.


Sing, Sing, Sing


As I sit down to write my latest #edWorthit blog, I find myself exchanging the words of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” to “Blog, blog, blog, blog. Every teacher start to blog.” Over the past several years, I had considered starting a blog where I would share lessons and strategies for music educators. So, what stopped me from blogging? The answer is simple: fear and fatigue. I had been worried about adding another element to my already full schedule. I had also been afraid that the time devoted to blogging would be a waste.

After being named the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, I had looked for ways to share my activities and messages about education in Louisiana. It became apparent that blogging would be the best method for sharing my message. With the help of the St. Tammany Parish School System, my blog was established. I pushed past my fear and sat down to write my first blog on August 6, 2015.

Since then, I have written over 60 blogs. Some, I’ve been able to write quickly. Others, I struggled to find the words to best express my message. As for the time factor, I have discovered that writing between 6:00-8:00 a.m. is the best time for me to write.

With all that said, I am now a great advocate of blogging. Despite the time and challenges of writing, blogging is definitely “worth it”. As many teachers throughout the country are struggling to have their voices heard, I have found that blogging has significantly amplified my voice. I’ve also loved the example that my writing has set for my students. I’ve been amazed by the number of students that have read my blogs this year. It is such a thrill to hear a student question me about my writing or quote something that I’ve written. I even have a third grade student that routinely questions me when I haven’t updated my blog. As I explain my reasons for not writing, I often can’t help but be amused by this reversal in our roles.

Although my year as the State Teacher of the Year will end in July, I know that I will continue writing in the future. The rewards from blogging greatly outweigh the fear and fatigue. If you are an educator, I would love to hear your #edWorthit reasons for blogging!



I’m in a Hurry

The best song to describe last week is Alabama’s, “I’m in a Hurry”. I was certainly “in a hurry” as I ran from one exciting activity to the next. It all began with the announcement of my nominee for the Teaching it Forward scholarship to the University of Phoenix. You can find out more about that thrilling announcement at   Because I had been selected as a “Star Teacher” for my district, I was interviewed immediately following the scholarship announcement. Along with the interview, a portion of my first class was filmed. You can see the video and the interview at

On Thursday afternoon, I led the first Music Education Working Group meeting. As you may recall, the Louisiana Department of Education had conducted a study on my behalf regarding music education programs in the grades k-8. The objectives for the first meeting were to review the data from the study and agree on the process for making recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. As this first meeting was conducted as a Webinar, I had several conference calls and practice runs regarding the use of the technology interspersed throughout the week.

I also participated in another conference call regarding the planning for a presentation at this summer’s Teacher Leader Summit in New Orleans. I’m looking forward to the presentation because I will be working alongside three other Louisiana State Teachers of the Year. I know that I will learn a great deal from these inspiring teachers as we progress with our plans.

Along with these invigorating activities, there was much hustle and bustle at school. We had Spring Celebrations and a visit by the Bug Mobile. The first grade students also visited a nursing home to share special bunnies that they had created with the residents. The faculty members even participated in a egg hunt throughout the day on Thursday.

With all of these activities, I was also teaching my regular schedule. Needless to say, it was a week where I could have done as in the song, “Rush and rush until life’s no fun”. However, I recalled some excellent advice given to me by Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year. While in San Antonio, we had discussed the difficulty of balancing the hybrid roles of “Teacher” and “Teacher of the Year”. Her advice had been “to be present”. Keeping that advice in mind, I gave all of my attention to the present moment and focused on the next activity only when the time came. Although I was still in a hurry between activities, I enjoyed each and every moment this week.


The song, “Happy,” by Pharrel Williams was blaring as I was getting ready for a day of adventure on Friday, March 18, 2016. The excitement began with attending the Dream Teachers Golf Tournament at the Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary. Dream Teachers is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating teachers in Louisiana. They also work in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Education to honor the State Teacher of the Year. The funds raised through the golf tournament on Friday will be used to support the Teacher and Principal of the Year programs.

After arriving at the golf club, I mingled with the Dream Teachers volunteers and greeted the golfers as they signed in at the registration table. After checking in, the golfers were given a special grab bag and were treated to a delicious lunch. Many also elected to purchase raffle tickets for the fabulous door prizes that included tickets to various sporting events.

Following lunch, the golfers went to their assigned golf carts and were addresses by Denny Bond, a member of the Board of Directors for Dream Teachers. The rules for the event were reviewed and then the competition began. I hopped into a golf cart and headed to the 15th hole as this hole was extra special. If a golfer made a hole in one, he/she would have received a 24 month lease for a Mercedes Benz from Mercedes Benz of Baton Rouge. I had fun cheering on and cheering up each golfer as they attempted to make this difficult shot.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the award ceremony. Instead, I had more adventures ahead in New Orleans.

It was St. Tammany night at the Pelicans game on Friday. The St. Tammany Jr. High Band did a wonderful job performing the National Anthem before the start of the game. It seemed like the game had just gotten started when I had to head to a special gate to meet with Matt, the liaison for the Pelicans, and the other Teacher and Principal of the Years from St. Tammany Parish. After quick hugs, Matt escorted our eager group down to the tunnel where we had to wait until half time. The wait would have seemed much longer, but we were distracted by Olate Dogs from America’s Got Talent. Suddenly, Matt was escorting us to the court where we stood to watch the Olate Dogs performance. While the audience was enthralled with dogs’ tricks, we joked about it being a hard act to follow.

When the special show ended, we were ushered onto the center of the court. I was momentarily distracted as a Pelicans cheerleader came to stand next to me and then the announcements began. As each honoree was introduced, we waved to the crowd. Afterwards, Matt asked me if I had felt nervous. Honestly, I had not been nervous. Since I’ve learned how quickly these moments pass, I had been focused on savoring the experience. As I headed back to my seat to watch the rest of the game, there was a spring in my step and a song in my heart. Yes, I was “Happy”!