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Glen Dale Elementary Music Teacher Kathy Fox Represents West Virginia

Photo by Alan Olson Glen Dale Elementary music teacher Kathy Fox demonstrates the class’s new abundance of vibraphones, which were relatively easy to clean over the last school year.

GLEN DALE — A local educator was selected to represent the Mountain State when the nation’s educators were collectively awarded the National Association of Music Merchants’ Eagle Award last week.

Glen Dale Elementary teacher Kathy Fox was selected to represent West Virginia virtually on behalf of the state’s music educators for their exemplary service during the pandemic during the 37th annual American Eagle Awards, which were held on July 15.

wThe honors are presented each year in recognition of those who have made long-term contributions to American musical culture, to showcase the ideal of music education for all children, and to support the protection of creators’ rights both locally and internationally.

Fox suspects she was chosen because she has previously served as president of the West Virginia Music Educators Association, as well as having continued to serve in several capacities, including on Moundsville’s Arts and Culture Commission and on the board of the Strand Theater.

She added that it was an honor, but more importantly a responsibility, to represent music educators in the state who were forced to adapt to the unusual year and keep students educated in different ways.

“It’s a great opportunity that music educators were chosen,” Fox said Tuesday. “… This year, I think they were looking for people who made a significant contribution to music education, and who else was there but the music teachers?

“… I tried to offer the same amount of music instruction that the students would get, knowing that they had live meetings and stuff with their teachers. I did lots of videos of myself, kept it with an online music curriculum, which was really great, because there was an accountability piece that went with it. If the kids did it, I knew. … I’m really fortunate that I have that. It was easy for me to see that we had a really high level of engagement.”

Teachers have had to change up their curricula to accommodate the changing educational landscape during the pandemic.

Safety procedures were put in place which required different practices from a typical music education year, ranging from an inability to hold performances, to a shift to different instruments which weren’t woodwinds, such as drums, mallet instruments, or, new this year, the ukulele, which proved to be a hit among students.

The return to classrooms, Fox said, was a high point for the last school year.

“The kids loved having an opportunity to be back in the classroom, but also a chance to be a part of a group. I don’t know if it was the power of music, but it was definitely the power of connection,” she said. “… We were very limited in, for example, singing, because that was not approved for best practice, so we did other things. The room looked different, and still looks different, with things pushed back to have more floor space for kids.”

Fox’s room, packed away for the summer, is stacked to the ceiling with tall drums, and vibraphones line the perimeter of the room, which were chosen because they could be quickly and easily cleaned between classes.

“… I made it a point to secure instruments that were safe, that we could clean quickly and easily,” she said. “I had a student teacher that was here to help, and we could trade off to make sure kids were hands-on, but still one-to-one coverage with instruments. … We did a lot of drumming, a lot with mallets, and we picked up a couple more mallet instruments.

“The big and exciting thing we did was that we got ukuleles, and got to play those with our fourth graders, so that was a big change,” she added. “Those kids love anything I put in front of them. They respond well to just about everything. They really love the opportunity to perform, so I think that was their biggest heartbreak. We had lots of great things for them to do in the classroom, but we didn’t have an audience for them to work together to perform to.”

Lacking assemblies for performances, Fox said, the students made frequent visits to the administrative offices or tours through the halls to hold impromptu performances for whoever was nearby to listen.

Online performances, sadly, were not commonplace due to copyright reasons.

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