Not one but two USD 443 music teachers are being recognized by the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA).
Katie Corwin, music teacher at Ross Elementary, was named Southwest Kansas Outstanding Elementary Music Educator by KMEA; and Jason Richins, Dodge City High School band director, is being named Southwest Kansas Outstanding High School Music Educator.
"I loved playing my trumpet in school so I went on to Hutchinson Community College to play for their bands," Corwin said. "While there, I began teaching individual trumpet lessons and really enjoyed it. I decided to go on to earn my bachelor’s degree and teach what I love to do."
Each of the seven districts within KMEA selects recipients. To be selected, educators must be nominated with 10 letters of recommendation and nominees must have five years of experience.
"I went into teaching music for the reason I think a lot of teachers choose to teach," Richins said. "I had a few dedicated, passionate and inspirational music teachers that never gave up on me. I wanted to give back and do the same thing for the younger generations."
Corwin graduated from Washburn University and is working on her master’s degree through Kansas State University. Richins, who grew up in Wyoming, earned his bachelor’s degree in music education and a Master’s degree in percussion performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"The best part of being a music teacher is to see the look on a student’s face when they have a good performance. Nothing feels better than watching the Pride come off the field knowing that the kids gave it their best and to witness their satisfaction," Richins said. "When I go to the middle schools, it’s the excitement a kid gets when they can finally play ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on their clarinet, or the way the percussionists come skipping in the room because they’re so excited to learn ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’"
According to Corwin, the best part of teaching music is watching the kids grow up.
"I get to see them from kindergarten through fifth grade, and then I go to the concerts at Comanche Middle School and the high school to watch their progress," she said.
But the job doesn’t come without its challenges. According to Corwin, one of those challenges is having the energy to get through a day full of teaching those students. For Richins, the hardest part is
being able to help every student and to give them the attention they deserve.
"We have about 700 students in our band program but I’m lucky enough to work with five other
awesome band directors who all share the same passion I do," he said. "But, even with six of us working together, getting to every child is very challenging. I feel horrible when kids slip through the cracks, but we do our best to give everyone an experience!"
Regardless of the challenges, both music teachers are proud of their profession and the job theydo for the students of Dodge City Public Schools.
"I love it when a kid comes up, gives me a hug, and tells me that they love me or music," Corwin said.
For Richins, his proudest moment came in 2016, right after the band performed at the Central States Marching Band Festival at K-State.
"The kids had an amazing performance that was followed by a standing ovation. The crowd was responding to what the kids were giving them and it truly felt like they had created a moment for the audience," he said. "After the performance, we were waiting for our video critique and there were so many kids crying and hugging each other. They were so overwhelmed with what they had just done.
"That night, they created a positive experience for themselves and for the audience."
Both teachers agree that music is an important part of a child’s education.
"In my mind, music is important in schools because it teaches you things well beyond the components of music. I have learned that the expectations we have in music help shape the lives of these students," Richins said. "Kids learn the importance of being on time, the importance of being prepared, how to work with others, how to work with people you don’t like and be successful, how to be organized, how to respond appropriately, how one individual can effect an entire ensemble — the list goes on and on!"
For Corwin, music education has many aspects, all of which are important to a student.
"I love that it gives students the opportunity to excel, even if they may not enjoy other subjects," she said.
Both educators are being recognized Dec. 2 at the Southwest Kansas Music Educators Association meeting.