Doug Clevenger’s Ohio teaching license expired in 1982. In January 2017 he was thrust into Minnesota’s public school system as an interim music teacher at Clarkfield Area Charter School (CACS). The previous instructor, Lynn Wilms, suddenly moved to Iowa with her husband. Clevenger had to scramble to get a state teaching license. “Returning to the classroom has been a lot of fun. The students and staff are great,” said Clevenger. “But it’s always a lot of work for a first year teacher. In this case it was especially challenging because the school doesn’t have a music curriculum.”
There is a teacher’s book and some CDs, which offer basic ideas for the classroom. But there is nothing for the students. The school’s music repertoire library is almost nonexistent. The CACS Parent-Teacher Community Group is raising money to buy a new music curriculum. Hopefully, that may help attract a long-term music teacher. “Somebody told me I’m the seventh music teacher in the ten year history of the school,” Clevenger said. “We’d like to shut that revolving door. Lynn Wilms said this was the most cooperative school staff she had ever worked with. They’ve helped me a lot, too.”
Even with the strong supporting cast, returning to the classroom has not been easy for Clevenger. “It was a real shock,” Clevenger admitted. “I had no idea how much music pedagogy had changed. Forty years ago everything was western music. Now they use music from all over the world, which is very diverse. Back then we never talked about core standards. Now core standards are all the rage.” Music classes are scheduled for only one afternoon a week. But that evolved into multiple days per week as students prepared for the spring concert. Practice started back in January. “I went for the low-hanging fruit,” Clevenger said of the musical selections.
“Silly songs and rote songs that are easy to learn. There is only one true performance work in the concert coming up on May 18th,” he added. That’s not quite accurate. There is one selection with two-part singing, but two other performance works are included. Two of the silly songs are dances with choreography. “The kids love them,” said Clevenger. As for the future, CACS has posted the music position, hoping to attract a long-term teacher who will help select the new curriculum. But the interim teacher will be available for another round if necessary.