‘It’s just so fun’: Alamance-Burlington School System’s teacher of the year shares the joy of teaching

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BURLINGTON, N.C. — Learning from home has not been easy for teachers or students. But one teacher in Alamance County is making the best of these unusual circumstances.

Kelly Poquette is energetic, lots of fun and always positive. Each week she teaches up to 700 students elementary music. Those are just a few of the many reasons Poquette has been named the Alamance-Burlington School System’s teacher of the year for 2020.

“It is joy and a blast because you get to work with your pre-K and you get to work with your 5th graders and the gamut in between,” she said. “And it’s just so different. And every grade level has those things that you’re like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be great because they’re going to get it at this grade.’ Or, ‘I can use this kind of language.’ It’s going to be fun for them, and it’s just so fun.”

She teaches students at two schools: EM Yoder and Pleasant Grove. When schools went virtual last March, she embraced the change even if it wasn’t always easy.

“For me, I had to embrace it. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this. I can’t do that,'” said Poquette. “I can’t do certain things, but I can. And I can. And I can, and it’s not always easy, but that’s part of life. You can’t teach things the same way every year. I never do. And I’m just teaching a little bit differently virtually. So we still make music happen. We’re still active in our music-making.”

She said she is just thankful to be able to teach and connect with the students.

According to Poquette, “In the times we’re in right now, if we would be in person right now, I would be more limited in the things that I could do with them because singing probably would be out. We can move to be more limited. We have to do a lot more speaking. Speaking is one of things we do, but we cut out other things. So the fact that we’re virtual, I think it opened up a lot of more material that I could use a lot more ways we can express ourselves.”

She also realized that being virtual has allowed her to get to know her students better. 

“I’ve been able to see personalities and students that I wouldn’t have seen before,” she said. “They had the opportunity to share about themselves in their home or in their daycare, wherever they are. Oftentimes in, especially pre-K through 2nd grade, we do a lot of sharing in the middle of our lessons. Cause we go to ‘arioso-land,’ and you can only sing when you’re on arioso-land so that you have to use your singing voice. So I’ll say, ‘Please go get something, anything. And maybe it’ll be like, ‘Find something with your favorite color and bring it back. ‘And so then they’ll sing whatever it is.”

To her, culture is very important in music, and so is dance.

“Movement for me is vital in the music classroom,” she said. “Every single class. I build all of our lessons that the students will ultimately be tuneful, beatful and artful. So they’ll be able to sing in tune. They’ll be able to move and feel a beat, and they’ll be able to expressively move in an artful manner. And to do those three things, we sing, say, dance, play, create in every class. And so it just means we’re very active music makers.”

And it is important to her to keep the kids interested and logging in every day. 

“I’m here because of the students.,” she said. “They are what inspire me to come every day. They’re the ones that have the ideas that when I get out of the way, and I listened to their ideas, our music becomes even better and it becomes more meaningful because it’s theirs. It’s not what I told them to do.”

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