ELIZABETHTOWN - Lessons developed by a teacher at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School are now having an impact outside of her classroom.
Kerry Mero, music teacher for grades 7-12 at ELCS, was chosen last year as one of 28 teachers from across the state to be featured on a DVD produced by the New York State School Music Association to help educate and inspire fellow music teachers.
Mero is in her ninth year teaching at ELCS and has been an active member of NYSSMA for even longer. When the organization was offered a state grant in 2006, it set out to produce a video to encourage professional development.
The DVD, entitled "NYSSMA Music Views: Standards-Based Teaching & Learning Across the State," samples lessons from a wide variety of music classes. Teachers had to submit lesson plans. Only a few that demonstrated strong and creative ties to New York State learning standards for music education were chosen.
"They really tried to get a good representation of different schools and different age groups," Mero said. "We fit the bill pretty nicely because we're such a small town in a fairly remote area."
The lesson she chose, one for her seventh grade general music class, involved the exploration of a classical music piece, Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," using African drums.
"A hands-on general music lesson at the middle school level is always going to be pretty popular, because that age group is really hands-on," Mero said.
The drums have become an integral part of the music program at ELCS, having started with just a handful of them in 2003. Grants allowed for dozens more to be purchased as teaching tools for the general music classes.
The instruments caught on with students and Mero now teaches a class devoted to an African drum ensemble.
"We had 15 or 16 kids [in the ensemble] last year," said Mero, "and this year it's close to 40."
As for general music, Mero said, the lessons involving African drums are important because they get kids who may not necessarily be proficient with an instrument to create music.
"Drums are very accessible," she said. "It means we can spend our time being a musician instead of just studying musicians."
Professional camera crews helped capture Mero's lesson on film last spring. The video was one of several included on the NYSSMA DVD, which was recently distributed to every high school in New York State as well as every New York college with a NYSSMA music education program.
"It was done with the hope that especially young teachers and those new to the profession would have some kind of model for what a standards-based music program would look like," explained Mero.
"It was really exciting to make other people aware that even though it's a tiny place, you can do things that you can do in a larger school," she said.