“I sing every day in my classroom,” said Glen Chilcote, music teacher at Kipps Elementary School, addressing just one of the ways he engages all of his students.
Chilcote recently won the prestigious McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence at the elementary level, for which he will receive $25,000. While he will use some of the money to pay off student loans, $10,000 is to be used for an international trip of his dreams.
He and his wife Annie, a music teacher at Auburn Elementary who was named teacher of the year at her school this year, will travel to Finland for training.
The original plan was to visit and study at the Orff Institute, which is in Salzburg, Austria; it offers an international course each summer. Chilcote and his wife have wanted to go for about a decade. Unfortunately, the night after the McGlothlin Award was announced, Chilcote’s wife went to register them for the course and it was already full.
“So,” Chilcote said, “we found another course, offered by Jasesoi ry (which is the Finnish Orff Schulwerk Association) called the International World Music Village in Keuruu, Finland…There are international presenters who are also affiliated with the Orff Institute, so we will have a similar experience, just in a different country.”
The family will first travel to Stockholm, Sweden. Chilcote said, “I’ve been learning to speak Swedish after two students moved to Kipps from Sweden. My friend Ewa Forsman has been tutoring me in Swedish since about October.”
Then Chilcote and his wife are traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Helsinki, Finland, for a week before going to the weeklong World Music Village course.
“I have always incorporated musical examples from many different cultures in my classroom, and look forward to traveling to get authentic material,” Chilcote said.
Chilcote first applied for the McGlothlin award a few years ago and was a finalist in 2015. “It looked immediately appealing to me because I was interested in the international travel piece,” Chilcote said.
The first criterion is that teachers teach within the Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting Service viewing area, and that they have been teaching at least five years. Teachers submit applications and essays, and then, if chosen as semi-finalists, send videos of themselves teaching as well as their standards-based lesson plans.
Chilcote says the application process has made him realize how important self-reflection is as a teacher. He asks himself daily: why did I teach something a certain way? Did I reach every student in some meaningful way? Would I consider a lesson successful or not?
Growing up in Dover, Delaware, music was always a part of Chilcote’s life. His father was a “great guitar player and always played the drums,” he said.
Chilcote’s music teachers growing up were extremely influential as well. He admired his high school band director’s musicianship. In addition, said Chilcote, “He always made opportunities for everyone to be really involved in music. He made it more a part of our lives and not just something we did. He also really cared about his students personally, and he made it a point to create those meaningful relationships, and I strive to be like him in this way every day.”
Chilcote loves that music is challenging. “I’ve always enjoyed the feeling you get when you work really hard at something, and the performance aspect of music makes that feeling very tangible.” Chilcote can play just about every instrument, but is primarily a percussionist and a low brass player. So why did Chilcote choose teaching instead of performing?
Actually, he said, it is a misconception that music teachers are not performers. “I still am a performer – inside and outside of the classroom. But as an educator, I get to share my passion for music with kids every day and help foster their own appreciation of music,” he said. “Music is one of the easiest ways to get kids to realize that hard work pays off, and music teaches us to set small goals towards a bigger idea.”
In keeping with the Orff Schulwerk method, which was created to reach all learners regardless of ability or musical talent, Chilcote’s perspective is that every student has the ability to be musical. The Orff Schulwerk approach to teaching focuses on active and creative music making so, he said, “I also strive to pick interesting, engaging, and challenging repertoire. Students have many opportunities for musical creativity and exploration in my room. I am also lucky to have them throughout their elementary career, so we develop a positive music classroom culture over the span of their years at Kipps.”
Chilcote’s son, Eli, is going to start kindergarten at Kipps in the fall, and he is excited to see what it is like being his music teacher.
The Chilcotes enjoy living in the New River Valley with the mountains and the opportunities of two university towns. They landed here by an interesting happenstance: Diana Love, the longtime band director at Blacksburg High School who was Chilcote’s supervisor at college, had learned that there happened to be two elementary music positions open in Montgomery County the year they graduated. “We have been here for eight years and are happy!” said Chilcote.
Chilcote was previously recognized as the Teacher of the Year for Montgomery County Public Schools and has taught at Kipps Elementary School since 2009. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education from West Virginia University, his master’s degree in education/music education from Virginia Tech, and holds Orff Schulwerk teaching certification from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.