See How We Grow

See How We Grow
Posted on 01/29/2024
See How We Grow By Matthew Willis, 2024 Missouri Teacher of the Year Semifinalist

As the first semester of 2023 comes to an end, we have much to celebrate in the Blue Springs School District. I have the honor to serve on the instructional staff for the Blue Springs High School Marching Band. While the competitive exploits of the Golden Regiment are admirable and fun to reflect on, where I take the most pride as an instructor is seeing the personal growth of our students. I am in the unique position to teach many band members from 6th grade until they graduate high school.

Getting to see students who I helped get started on trumpet as beginners, developing as performers and competing on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium is mind-blowing. We must teach beginning instrumentalists everything. We teach them how to set their case on the ground, open it properly, where to place their hands, how to form and embouchure - I can go on and on. Seeing those students I had in my beginning band just four years ago on the field as freshman world class performers is incredibly rewarding.  

It’s what happens in between those benchmark events that makes the experience worth it. I get to see growth happen in real time. I get to see the proud look on a student’s face when they finally lock in a difficult passage or master a complicated move. It is all about the personal growth I see in students and being there to help facilitate that growth.

Here's the cool thing - this is happening all over the BSSD at all levels. When I speak to coaches, counselors, and math teachers, our conversations center around this subject of personal growth. We want to see our students grow as scholars, teammates, and human beings. We want our students to be hopeful that they can accomplish what they put their mind to, what they work hard for. We want our students to earn the right to celebrate their success or be disappointed if they fail. Growth happens when a person thinks they are at their limit and then go a little bit farther.  

Personal growth also happens when students experience new and enlightening things. There are clubs and activities at every building in the district that aim to shift students’ paradigm or expand their worldview. The James Walker Elementary Farm to Table club was recently highlighted at the November BSSD Board of Education Meeting. The club takes food from seed to meal and supports families in need through the food they produce. Through participating in this activity, students can have an impact on their community through their actions.  

At Brittany Hill Middle School, there are many activities that help students demonstrate personal growth. The Unity in Action club has the mission of “making a change in yourself can help make a change in someone else.” They have taken the lead on creating a culture of understanding, educating their peers during Native American Heritage Month, and leading class presentations on coming together through our differences. We also have a woodworking club, where students engage in projects that aim to uplift and beautify our community.  

This March the BHMS 8th grade band will have the opportunity to perform at the Music for All Regional Concert Band Festival at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. This is a new and exciting experience for us, and we will have to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. One of the things I hope to demonstrate through this experience is that through discomfort comes growth, and with growth comes joy. Through being vulnerable and willing to grow, I can be a champion for my students’ personal growth, and hopefully help them to experience joy in their lives.