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Hazeldale teacher Kim Putnam receives state excellence in music education award

Kim Putnam received the honor Jan. 16 during a banquet in Eugene


THE TIMES: JAIME VALDEZ - Kim Putnam, a music teacher at Hazeldale Elementary School, dances with third-graders to the song Sasha, a Russian dance mix, during class. Putnam was recently received the Oregon Excellence in Elementary Music Education Award. Kim Putnam was, well, a little surprised when she was awarded the Excellence in Elementary Music Education Award presented by the Oregon Music Educator Association Jan. 16.

In fact, she didn’t even know she had been nominated.

“I had no clue because I am there anyway,” said Putnam, a Hazeldale Elementary School music teacher who has attended the association’s conference and banquet for the last seven years.

“Kim demonstrates a strong belief that every child should have access to a high-quality music education,” one nominator wrote of Putnam in a Beaverton School District press release. “She has done an amazing job bringing the community together through music and providing her students opportunities they will remember for their entire lives.”

Putnam said it was the summer before her senior year in high school that her interest in music really piqued. That’s when she got a chance to sing at concerts all around Europe as part of the Oregon Ambassadors of Music program, an eye-opening experience that sent her singing in London, Paris, Switzerland and Germany.

After briefly thinking about a career as a singer, Putnam realized that it wasn’t a lifestyle suited for her. Instead, she went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in vocal performance from the University of Oregon, and later, a master’s degree in education from Portland State University.

Now in her second year at Hazeldale, the 30-year-old music instructor teaches two 45-minute music classes each week to students in kindergarten through the fifth grades. She also is choir director for the performance-based Oregon Repertory Singers Youth Choir, which is geared to students ages 5 through 18.

Putnam, 30, said she originally thought she only wanted to only teach choir, but Debbie Glaze, her PSU advisor, suggested she get her full teaching license, something she’s glad she did.

“I like to give kids the opportunities to have a full music education,” Putnam said.

For her, that means providing a mix of activities to keep music engaging for students.

“I never spend the whole class period on one thing,” she said.

During a recent class, students participated in a reading activity, a cooperative singing game, a partner dance, an instrument activity and a circle singing game.

Given the opportunity, most students are musical and like to sing, she pointed out.

“We have some pretty talented kids here,” she said. “A lot of kids sing really well.”

Putnam said what she enjoys most about her job are working with the students who are “creative, fun and have great ideas.”

Students in her class regularly get a chance to try out xylophones, recorders, unpitched percussion and other instruments.

“Everyone likes something different but kids are into anything novel,” she said, noting that some of her third-graders recently rediscovered the fun of playing the triangle.

Putnam said she’s pleased that the district was able to reinstate full-time music teachers at all the elementary schools. According to district officials, budget cuts meant reducing the amount of time teachers spent at each school in the 2007-08 school year. However, they were reinstated to full-time status in 2009-10.

She’s also happy that Hazeldale students, along with three other feeder elementary schools, now have access to an after-school option band program that meets at Mountain View Middle School. There, students are given the opportunity to take up the flute, clarinet, trumpet or trombone.

“I encourage kids to start band young,” she said.

Putnam said she enjoys the fact she can give students who otherwise might not be able to afford an extensive music experience, a chance to try different things.

“Hazeldale is a really good school,” she said.

Putnam said Principal Angela Tran lets teachers do their work and trusts people to do their best.

Tran is equally complimentary of Putnam’s teaching skills.

“If you walk by the music room on any day, you will see high engagement,” Tran said in a news release announcing Putnam’s award. “There is laughter, movement and sound. Always. There is not a moment wasted in the rhythm of a routine she has for each grade level. From direct instruction, to practice, to playing an intentional game — all is done with intention, and I would add, with joy.”