As the school year closes, I want to give a shout out to some of the unsung heroes in education: the music and art teachers. For those of you who think that the arts don’t matter or that teaching music and art in the schools is a colossal waste of time and tax payer money (because it should be all about STEM, STEM, STEM), to that I have two words for you: Betsy Parsons. This music and dance teacher was my children’s guardian angel.
More than a decade ago my family moved from Texas to Reno, Nev. My son was in the middle of third grade and the move was hard on him. Every day I would pick him up from school and the first words out of his mouth were, “Can we please go back to Texas?” It was so heartbreaking that I actually told my husband I thought we needed to move back. He got so sad I feared when we were reaching a tipping point.
Enter Betsy Parsons, the choir teacher at Roy Gomm elementary. This magnificent woman is gifted with a sixth sense when it comes to children. She saw my little boy and took him under her wing. Choir became his happy place and like many other kids during recess he gathered in the choir room and hung out.
My son didn’t have a stellar voice and he might not have even liked singing in public that much, but he loved Mrs. Parsons and she slowly brought him out of his shell. She made him feel liked he belonged and that enabled him to start flourishing.
This keen teacher even noticed his love of technology and paid my son, then 10, to design a website for her dance studio: Scene Stealers. The boy, to use a Texas term, was in high cotton. This spurred him on to start his own web design business, and by fourth grade he had the swagger befitting a mini mogul.
It was at that dance studio where my daughter found her passion. She did the traditional elementary school sports like soccer, and many a Saturday was spent watching her play. But you could tell she was in it more for the Capri Suns than anything else.
Then Mrs. Parsons, sensing something in our daughter my husband and I couldn’t even begin to see, introduced her to dance.
It was as if a new child was born. She fell in love with the art form. Dance became her reason for breathing. She still can’t get enough of it. Today, as a teenager she dances at least 20 hours a week. It defines her. To think what her life would be like if someone had never recognized her innate talent scares me.
This is why the arts are so important for every child. On one hand, you have my son with no real zeal for music, yet music and, more importantly, his music teacher lifted him up and gave him a refuge. A place where he could grow.
Music and arts education isn’t just for the students who have a talent for it. It’s for every child, because every kid will take what he or she needs from it. Some will walk out a little more knowledgeable about the arts and some will be saved by it.
For other children, like my daughter, an arts teacher will discern something in them that nobody else does and will unearth a God-given gift that will influence every part of their life.
Arts education in schools is so much more than learning to play an instrument, reading music or picking up a paintbrush. It’s about allowing children to expand their universe and to find beauty in the world.
It’s also about teachers like Betsy Parsons, who rescued a family.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at snarkyinthesuburbs@ gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.