Strode teacher aims to spread joy
Published 11:02 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Think of someone who’s always happy, always smiling and excited, Laura Wilson told her students at Strode Station Elementary School during a drama activity.
“You,” one student said.
The correct answer was SpongeBob SquarePants, but Wilson said that response was acceptable, too.
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“That to me was one of the best compliments I’ve been given,” Wilson said.
Wilson, with her “ramen-noodle hair” as her students call her curls (though on the rare occasion it is straight, they call it “spaghetti”), is a music teacher at Strode. And every day, Wilson said, she aspires to embody that SpongeBob spirit while also inspiring her students to do the same.
“I’d like [my students] to feel empowered and feel like they can unleash creativity and be who they are,” Wilson said.
Wilson, also a fiction writer who hopes to publish her first book soon, was born in Whitesburg but completed grade school in Virginia. She came back to Kentucky to attend college, completing her undergraduate degree at Morehead State University and later pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Kentucky.
Since then, Wilson has worked as a music teacher in Perry County and Rowan County before finding her home at Strode Station Elementary School, where she has worked for the last 17 years.
“When I was ready to go to college, I knew I wanted to study music,” Wilson said. “I was still working in different directions to go with it. But then in one of my music education classes, the first time I stood in front of a group of children, it was something … I just found part of myself I’d never known that existed.
“It was almost like breathing. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I need to be doing.”
Wilson said music has always played a part in her life. Her mother is a retired music teacher; though, she continues giving piano lessons.
Wilson began learning the piano at 5-years-old. Eventually, learning the flute and piccolo and joining marching band in middle and high school.
“I was always surrounded by music growing up,” Wilson said.
Music has brought love into her life, too. Wilson met her husband in a Lexington singing group. Now, their children are immersed in music, too. Wilson’s son plays the French horn in George Rogers Clark High School’s marching band, and her daughter plays the cello in Robert D. Campbell Junior High School’s orchestra.
While teaching, Wilson said she had developed an even stronger passion for various forms of music such as working with children and their voices as well as musical theater.
Wilson has been in charge of the musicals at Strode for several years. Strode recently wrapped its performances of “Mary Poppins” in November.
“I just love the eagerness and excitement that children get over music and theater,” Wilson said. “They just get so excited.”
One of Wilson’s favorite parts about being a music teacher is exploring different cultures through music. Music is a universal language, so people who speak different languages can read the same notation and sit down and make music together.
“We learn about the world by studying that a lot: their music, their art,” Wilson said. “It’s an instant connection.”
Wilson said she also enjoys teaching beginning recorder, teaching students how to play an instrument and how to read notes.
Wilson said she teaches her students that they do not have to possess that “natural ability” to play music; anyone can play, one only has to practice by investing their time and effort.
“One thing to know: you can play an instrument if you want to,” Wilson said. “You can do this … You can be a part of music; all of you can do that.”
Wilson said she hopes others realize how important music and other arts are to a child’s development as well as how important music’s role is in later parts of life. She said music is essential to brain development, and it helps with memory and emotions and much more.
“I love that I get to teach a subject where I can encourage creativity as well because I think what’s important in today’s workforce is the ability to think outside the box and to think differently,” Wilson said. “And I think music and all of the arts encourage that kind of thinking. It’s not just memorization of facts; it’s thinking outside of the box sort of realm, and I think that’s essential.”
Wilson said she hopes her students always keep music in their life in some way, whether it be listening to music, making music or teaching music to others.
“Music makes us better,” Wilson said.