This teacher is in tune with students’ success - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

This teacher is in tune with students’ success

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Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2007 8:38 am | Updated: 8:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Cathy Barclay. Mildred Boron. Bud Hetrick. Bruce Woods. Bill Bridges. Those names likely don’t ring a bell with too many — if any — folks in the East Valley, but I am eternally indebted to each of them.

They were some of my teachers, from elementary school through college, and they instilled in their students the understanding that knowledge has great value, the importance of setting and achieving goals and the too-often-forgotten notion that education can be both fun and rewarding.

Monday marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week, and Tuesday is National Teacher Day. When I found out this, the first instructor who came to mind was someone who has impressed me with his effort, enthusiasm and dedication. Dennis Marcum is a band teacher at Fremont Junior High School in Mesa; my daughter is one of his students, and that is how I became aware of his commitment to building up the total student, not just the musician.

His goal: “Serve students by reinforcing life skills; (if we) develop character, then they won’t have problems succeeding at school.”

Marcum teaches six hours a week outside his normal schedule, coming in early and staying late to instruct percussion students who volunteer their time to perform as a drum line. Drummers typically don’t play big roles in concert band, so to maintain their interest Marcum offered the option of performing as a percussion ensemble; he started with a group before school, and it became so popular that he added a second group after school.

Why would a teacher donate his time, and why would students volunteer to start their day earlier or stay late? Because the drum line “gives kids other opportunities to express themselves,” Marcum said.

For its spring concert in March, Fremont’s concert band performed a rousing rendition of the Deep Purple classic, “Smoke on the Water.” Marcum spent his personal time rearranging the music for the eighth- and ninth-graders, who had everyone in the audience tapping their feet or nodding their heads in time with the tune. While he admitted the work was a challenge, he gave all credit to the students for practicing long and hard to pull off a top-notch performance.

When I asked Marcum how he makes time to do so much for his students, he immediately pointed out that he is not alone. He said orchestra instructor Anita Archer and chorus teacher Andrea Rogers also go to great lengths “to keep music alive in schools”; all three continue to perform, put on clinics and judge competitions, among other things.

Marcum and his cohorts are faced with diminishing programs because of new mandates for additional science classes to feed the AIMS beast. As a result, students have fewer electives; at Fremont alone, there will be about 40 fewer students in band programs next school year compared with this year.

Marcum acknowledged that some students may never play music again after they leave the band program, but he wants to teach them to strive for excellence, express creativity and build character no matter what they do.

“We have a good program because of great kids,” he said. And he has great kids because of his commitment to their success.

There are literally hundreds of instructors across the East Valley who deserve recognition for their efforts, or at the very least a humble “thank you” for all that they do for our children and our community. We want to give readers a chance to sing the praises of those teachers.

We invite readers to compose a 50-word essay about a teacher who has made a difference in their life. Send your submission to us via e-mail at Remember to include your name and city of residence for publication, and mailing address and phone number for verification. Deadline for submissions is 9 a.m. Wednesday; we will publish a selection of essays on Thursday.

If you go

What: Fremont Junior High School concert and repertory band performance When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 1001 N. Power Road, Mesa

Cost: Free

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