By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Rocky Plains' musical Matt
Placeholder Image

Usually a room plastered with posters of The Beatles, Miles Davis and Stevie Ray Vaughn can be found in the interior in a college dorm, but the scene can also be found in the music room at Rocky Plains Elementary School.

Matt Garwood, also Rocky Plains 2008 Teacher of the Year, has taught music in the poster-clad room since the school opened in 2005 and has taught for a total of five years.

While attending the University of Georgia, Garwood played around the local Athens music scene.

"It's great when you don't have a set schedule and need extra money," Garwood said.

He also plays in the orchestra pit during Arts Association in Newton County musical productions including the upcoming production of "Oklahoma."

The first instrument Garwood learned to play was drums. Later he picked up the guitar, bass and piano and he sings.

Garwood's inspiration for becoming a teacher came from his really hip fourth-grade teacher, who also inspired him to take up drumming.

"All of his word problems related to stuff like, 'Leroy went to play drums at the jazz club and had $18 for gas,'" Garwood said.

As a teacher, Garwood begins each class a little differently than most music teachers.

"We usually have a question of the day just to get their brains going," Garwood said.

Sometimes he will go around the room and ask each student to complete a phrase such as "as the creature slowly stood up..."

To keep the students from behaving wildly, since many tend to lose control around instruments they can bang on, he awards letters of musical words like orchestra or musicality to classes for their good behavior.

When the class earns enough letters to complete a word, they get a prize.

Garwood said what he thought would be one of his biggest challenges as a music teacher turned out to be a really great thing for everyone.

A few years ago Rocky Plains began to integrate their special education students assisted by a paraprofessional into regular education classrooms.

Garwood wondered how he was going to teach a severely hearing impaired student with a slight palsy how to read and play music.

The student ended up teaching Garwood a thing or two.

When Garwood had the students write a few bars of a simple melody of their own creation, the student wrote a beautiful tune and named it for his mother.

"It just made you want to gush," Garwood said.

Garwood said the student also taught classmates a bit of sign language and taught him not to doubt the abilities of any student.

He added he is trying to think of some kind of school production to showcase the student-generated music he has collected.

Not only do students write their own music, but Garwood introduces students to famous musicians from Beethoven to John Lennon.

"The best part of my job is I get to make kids enjoy music they've never been exposed to," Garwood said.

He said music is important to a well rounded education because it shows how abstract math concepts are applied in the real world or paints a historical picture of an era, among other lessons.

"Music is an in-road to talk about math or history or character," Garwood said. "I use it as a spring-board to talk to students about important stuff."