“I used the concept of the 12-bar blues song to illustrate biology. Since the song repeats when you move through all of the bars, it transitions easily into a discussion of the cyclical nature of an animal’s life cycle… In other cases, I’ve used (it) to teach history lessons or examine other cultures. To be an effective music teacher you have to make your lessons as diverse as possible.”
AUGUSTA, GA – Phyllis Porter-Johnson said she couldn’t remember a point in her life where she wasn’t exposed to music. The Jenkins-White Elementary School [Augusta, Georgia] music teacher said she fondly remembers listening to classical music, hymns and jazz music alongside her parents and watching her older siblings play a piano near her childhood home in Augusta.
“I come from a musical family. I’ve experienced the power of music all of my life, and I never tire of learning more about it,” Porter-Johnson said. “I knew from the time I entered third grade that I would be a music teacher. I was dedicated to making that happen.”
Even after 26 years in the education field and a decade of musical and leadership training, the 2016 Teacher of the Year candidate said she remains as dedicated to her job as ever.
“I am always learning more about how I can better teach music classes and inspire my students. … I want them to embrace their potential no matter what their background is. That’s my role,” Porter-Johnson said. “If I am going to expect the best out of them, then I have to give them the best of me.”
In order to properly teach her pupils, Porter-Johnson said music must not be taught in a vacuum. From her perspective, the discipline has much to offer the greater schoolroom environment.
Porter-Johnson said she often “integrates” other subjects into her lessons, using music to illustrate concepts from science, history, mathematics or English language arts. She said teaching “combined lessons” not only creates a deeper appreciation for music in her pupils, but also leads to a more in-depth understanding of the other courses they take.
“I used the concept of the 12-bar blues song to illustrate biology. Since the song repeats when you move through all of the bars, it transitions easily into a discussion of the cyclical nature of an animal’s life cycle,” Porter-Johnson said.
“In other cases, I’ve used (it) to teach history lessons or examine other cultures. To be an effective music teacher you have to make your lessons as diverse as possible.”
Jenkins-White Principal Lori Johnson said Porter-Johnson’s teaching methods boost pupil achievement and self-esteem. Johnson said pupils “respect and appreciate” the music teacher and those taking her classes received high scores on state assessments.
“She has a genuine vision for the future of her children. That’s why she’s driven to be the best educator she can be,” Johnson said. “When I see her students walking through school hallways, I can tell they love how she teaches. … She has really built up their self-esteem, and it shows.”
Johnson added that she felt Porter-Johnson “definitely deserved” to be the 2016 teacher of the year.
“I think she would be an excellent representative of the good work we do in this district,” Johnson said. “As far as I’m concerned, they couldn’t pick a more deserving teacher.”
By Sean Gruber/Augusta Chronicle