A Teacher of the Year Says to Music Teachers: Take a Bow

Editor’s Note: In October 2007 MENC member David L. Woten was named 2008 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Woten teaches sixth-and seventh-grade chorus as well as eighth-grade general music at Carson Middle School in the North Allegheny School District. What follows are remarks he made to a meeting of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

“Being named the “2008 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year” has been an incredible experience. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the teachers of Pennsylvania. Since being selected, my life has been incredibly hectic. Within the chaos, there have been a few moments of humor. One of the gifts I received was a 5 pound Hershey bar. A couple of weeks later, my 6-year-old son, Nicholas and I were riding in the car. He said “Dad, I keep telling everybody at school about the candy bar you won. It’s the highlight of my life!”

One of the highlights of my experience will occur two weeks from now. I will have the opportunity to meet the President and First Lady in the Oval Office.

I only have been given a couple minutes with you so I will share just one of my experiences. In January, I attended the National Teacher of the Year conference in Dallas, TX. Each state teacher of the year was in attendance. The first evening several of us gathered in the restaurant. A few people stated discussing what they had done to be selected as Teacher of the Year. One teacher, John, turned to me and asked, “What did you do? No offense, but you are a music teacher.” John is his real name, but for his safety, I will not provide his last name or state.

I have prepared a list. It is not complete, nor is it in order of importance. These are just a few of the things you do every day! This is my tribute to all of you.

  • Your rehearsals teach self-discipline, diligence, teamwork, and social skills.
  • Your composition and improvisation lessons foster creativity.
  • Your music history lessons teach our culture as well as that of other countries.
  • The vocal and instrumental experiences you provide teach hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and multi-tasking.

As you transform the written music into sound you teach reasoning, problem solving, and
expression
Through performance you teach communication on a level much higher than the spoken
word:

  • You teach passion and a commitment to excellence.
  • You teach students self-confidence and pride.
  • You challenge students to do more than they ever believed they could.

You do these things and more while often serving as counselor, private instructor, travel agent, events coordinator, and countless other things. So John, and all the others out there like you, I challenge you to walk just one day in our shoes.

Continue to do great things in your classrooms and continue to educate others about the value of music.”

Roz Fehr, August 29, 2008. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education