Making the grade: Becky Barnes
When Becky Barnes saw her fifth graders for the first time since their return from winter break, she kicked things off with “Star Stage,” an improvisational dance activity she invented for her students. Barnes and the children took turns leading as the group got down to the hip hop beats thumping from the boom box.”I do a lot of different kinds of things with the kids in order to get them to participate,” Barnes said. “They don’t all like dance, they don’t all like singing and they don’t all like instruments. So I use a lot of variety.”Barnes has been sharing her love for music with Summit County’s elementary students for 32 years.
INSPIRATION: Wentzville is a small town west of St. Louis. I spent my K-12 life there. There weren’t many opportunities in the arts, but I did everything that was available to me. I took dance lessons until the dance teacher left town. It was the same with piano lessons – I lasted the longest with Mrs. Leitman.I participated in every school musical and play, and when I was in elementary school, I organized my friends to put on “shows” in our basement. Kids paid their admission in pop bottles, mostly.My first year in college, I was a speech and drama major, but I had lots of music education friends. I sang with the Northeast Missouri State University Singers, and I made my spending money singing with a rock band at high school dances and Greek parties.So, when my sophomore year rolled around, I switched to a music major and never looked back!
MOTIVATION: OK: Basically, I think that all kids need to be involved in the arts. Music, movement and visual arts, when combined with academics, result in a well-rounded, intelligent and thoughtful individual.Nothing elevates the human spirit in the same way an arts experience does. The last time I saw “Les Miserables,” it lasted in my heart for days. No one should be denied that feeling.MODERN CHALLENGES: It’s tough being a specialist today in the stressful world of CSAP scores and academic concerns. Some people have forgotten the connection between the arts and academic success, which is sad. But I’m hopeful that, in time, we will all come to understand what many kids, school personnel and parents already know: A day without physical education, music, media, Spanish or art is not quite as fulfilling as it should be for all kids. Amen.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: I would like to think that kids will carry the musical experiences they’ve had in my classes into their adult years as a lifelong passion in one form or another. I read somewhere that if we can teach the kids to move well enough to dance at a wedding and sing comfortably with a group, in the shower or to a child, then we’ve done our job. I think that’s an accomplishment.IF I HAD $100,000: I’d spend it on the arts – full-time specialists in all elementary schools! Yippee!EXTRACURRICULAR: I enjoy walking, snowshoeing, going to concerts and spending time with my family. I used to take belly dancing classes and even performed in a few recitals.
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