Beth Seaman teaches kids confidence through music

 

If you want to achieve rock star status in Georgetown, consider becoming a music teacher. Take it from Beth Seaman, who has been teaching music to elementary and middle school students for thirty-nine years. These days, she can’t leave the house without being recognized by a former student, parent, or former-student-turned-parent, whether it’s in restaurants, drive-thrus, or grocery stores. Beth has had a positive effect on a good many Georgetown people.

Laughing, she recalls how a former student bounded up to her at 4:30 in the morning as she was purchasing ingredients for her school’s Thanksgiving lunch. “I was in Wal-Mart,” she says. “No one was there, and then all of a sudden I heard this burly, bearded guy say, ‘Ms. Seaman, hi!’”

The man, it turned out, was a former student of hers who had played the prince in a school performance of Cinderella. “He was married and had three kids,” says Beth, “And that’s what he remembered—the part he played in a sixth grade show!”

“That’s the fun,” she says, “It’s seeing these kids run up—and, you know, sometimes by now they’re big ol’ guys. They’ll give me a hug and say, ‘Remember me?’ and they remember what they did in the class.”

Over her years as a music, drama, and theater teacher, Beth has learned that people create powerful, lasting memories when they feel good about themselves and when they gain self-confidence. “I love teaching students of every age, but when I see the self-confidence they get in music and the academics they learn, I’m so proud,” says Beth. “We do math in [my classes], we do science, we read, we perform; we gain confidence in ourselves and learn life skills.”

Music is a powerful teaching aid, says Beth, who began her teaching career in 1974 as a homeroom teacher to a class of third graders. “If you’re learning a series of things like the presidents or the states—you know ‘The Fifty Nifty States,’ ” says Beth, referring to the popular song, “so you can sing it. So that’s the way I’ve always approached learning.”

Beth began her career teaching music when Pickett opened as a sixth grade center in 1993. “And that was that,” she says with a smile. Since then, she has taught every grade from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

After nearly forty years of teaching music, drama, and general studies to Georgetown’s elementary and middle school students, Beth no longer keeps track of the precise number of students she’s taught—but she knows that she has taught “thousands.”

This year alone, she’s touching the lives of more than 600 kids through the Village and Annie Purl Elementary school music programs. “The only thing that gets me is coming out and not knowing every kid’s name—that’s a hard thing, you know? And you want to learn every child’s name. Eventually, you learn something about each child that you can remember and identify with.”

And, says Beth, another wonderful thing about music is that there’s a place for everyone: “To many students, music is a lifeline.” Not only does it help kids gain confidence and come out of their shells, but it also helps solidify what they’re learning in other subjects.

Take science, for example: “You’re teaching small kids about vibrations, loud and soft, high and low. A lot of times science teachers borrow instruments to teach scientific concepts. Reading—students are learning how to read music and lyrics. Math—you’re teaching them counting, teaching them about measures and beats. History—students are learning about composers, dates, and different periods in music. When it comes down to it, every subject correlates to music.”

A case in point: This year, fourth graders from the schools worked together to perform The Alamo, a musical by Phil Garcia, who is now assistant principal at Village Elementary. The performance teaches, in a fun and interactive way, material kids need to know to pass the Texas history portion of the seventh grade TEKS  (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).

Each elementary school also puts on a beautiful Veteran’s Day program, says Beth. “This year we had sixty veterans come to Village. These little kids are so respectful and grateful to these veterans. That’s my favorite program, because they really understand what a veteran is. They’re having a life experience, learning a life lesson.”

“We do performances with almost every grade,” says Beth. “They’re great opportunities for students to learn about audience etiquette and performance skills.” At the end of every performance—whether a holiday show, a musical, or a choral performance—Beth notices something magical: “The kids feel so proud after the show, and you know they’ll remember that feeling for the rest of their lives.”

Beth’s highest goal as a teacher is to foster positive feelings and learning experiences that students will take with them for the rest of their lives. “My mentor, Dr. Ford, always said to me, ‘I want your class to be the one that they remember most.’ And that’s always been my goal.”

By Rachel Brownlow
Photos by Rudy Ximenez

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