Education Matters: Why Catherine Cooper is teacher of the year

FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Teachers have faced many challenges this year. with distance learning, they’ve had to learn a new way to teach.

This years’ Fresno County teacher of the year embraced technology to bring music to her students. Catherine Cooper says she is a performer and she brings that love of performing to her position as district elementary music teacher for the Sanger Unified School District. Before the pandemic, she would visit three different school sites.

“I would have started my day outside my door playing recorder as my students came dancing into the room,” said Cooper. “It would have been one half-hour with first-graders making up dances to songs from China, and maybe a fifth-grade class learning a song by James Brown, and then fourth-grade recorder class after that.”

Like other teachers, her team has had to adjust

With the aid of technology, the visual and performing arts in Sanger Unified has gone digital.

“The whole elementary music team gets together we brainstorm, we plan at least a month ahead of time. We are incorporating literature, classical music, folk songs body, percussions, games, and after we have planned out the lessons then we all go off and record our pieces.”

Cooper is part of the performance team too. She also brings all the pieces together and edits the video. She believes the creative arts is an important part of a student’s education.

“By learning to dance and draw and paint and create they are learning to be creative, they are learning to be communicators and they are learning to have confidence in their own ability to say and do things that matter in a positive way in the world.”

Cooper’s belief that music is important for a child’s development reaches into the community. For the past 11 years, she and other volunteers operated a community music organization called Kidmunity Music, providing high-quality arts experiences to young people – regardless of their ability to pay.

Cooper’s commitment to music, and to her students, earned her the honor of being named teacher of the year by the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.

Superintendent Jim Yovino showed up at Cooper’s front door to present her with the honor.

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