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Less than half of peninsula elementary schools host music programs

Riley Board

Of the 16 elementary schools on the Kenai Peninsula, only seven employ a certified music teacher. While some of these teachers work exclusively at one school, others are shared between several schools.

Partially due to the nationwide teacher shortage, elementary schools across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are actively trying to hire more teachers by partnering with universities and scouting online social job platforms. Although they have identified candidates to teach other subjects, the district has had little success onboarding more music teachers within elementary schools.

“Talking with our elementary principals, a lot of the teachers are still doing a lot of music, a lot of art; teachers getting creative,” said Eric Pederson, director of elementary education with the district. “We have so many wonderful teachers in our district, and by nature, they are very creative. They’re trying to do this if they do not have a certified music teacher, they’re still offering music instruction.”

Delana Green, owner of Greenhouse Music in Soldotna, says she has seen an increase in local students enrolling in her courses over the last three years. Green, who develops music programs for elementary-aged children, will soon be employed by a local elementary school as a part-time music instructor. She has also been working with the school district to help find ways to implement music education in the curriculum.

“I want to try and solve this issue that I keep seeing all over Alaska, especially more in the rural areas, where we just don’t have any free music education,” Green said. “I think there is a way that I and other music educators can come together and still help these kids in a different style, such as online learning.”

The mother of an elementary-aged child, Green says that her daughter is enrolled in a local elementary school with a music program. She believes that it is important for her daughter to learn music in a classroom setting among her peers.

“I can supplement her at home, but her peers don’t have that experience,” Green said. “I would be able to survive with my daughter not having it, but, especially with early elementary, I really want to see kids use music in their daily lives. It has such a phenomenal impact on the brain and the creative side of kids, and learning and language development.”

Green added that one of the best ways to implement changes within the school district’s curriculum is to get involved. Even so, she hopes that the school district can employ more certified music teachers in the future.

“You can go on and on with how much music really works both sides of the brain, and helps with the development of children,” Green said.

“Music is such a big part of who we are here in this area,” Pederson added. “I hope that we can continue to support the needs that we have in our school district.”

The district is currently hiring for an array of positions, including an elementary school music teacher.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL