Manteo Middle School drama and chorus teacher Felicia Byrum was selected by her peers to represent them as Teacher of the Year for 2009-2010. She also serves students at Manteo High School and First Flight Middle School as chorus teacher. Byrum is in her thirteenth year as an educator and her eighth year in Dare County.
Byrum says she was influenced to become a teacher by her desire to help young people benefit from the positive experiences that the study of music provides. She reflects that as a sixth grade band student, music education helped her to develop study skills, increased her self esteem, and became a venue for self expression. "Throughout my life," notes Byrum, "music has brought me experiences that have helped me to develop an understanding of people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions.
Foremost, Byrum says she seeks ways to use music education to promote self-awareness and build self-esteem in her students. "I relate lessons to current trends and life applications in order to provide connectivity between musical studies and core subjects, as well as foster an appreciation for and enjoyment of the arts. I reinforce the concept of ensemble as it relates to cooperation, leadership, and personal responsibility."
Byrum began her post-secondary education as a music therapy major at East Carolina University; she earned a Bachelor of Music/Music Education with a minor in Special Education from Old Dominion University. She has participated in post-graduate workshops at ODU, and most recently from East Carolina University in 2009 she was awarded a Master of School Administration, Supervision.
She nurtures a sense of community for her students at school and in the community at large. She says that by involving students in community events and using student performances as community functions, students become connected with the customs and traditions of their community, and develop into more engaged citizens. "Schools function to educate youth and prepare them for successful futures as individuals, and also promote belonging and a sense of responsibility to the community."
Byrum is convinced that music education, together with high expectations, is key in developing all aspects of the individual. "When students find success in music, they develop lifelong skills that pertain not only to musical foundations but to the acquisition of skills in math, science, language arts and social studies. Music classes are unique in that teachers often follow students from one grade to the next. This quantity of time with students allows teachers to see growth both academically and socially. We are vested in and support their academic success beyond the music classroom walls.
"When students feel a sense of belonging in the classroom and school, they succeed."