McKenzie Buttrons college experience prepared her for teaching music to students of all ages, from preschool through grade 12.
But it didnt prepare her for the first day of classes last week at Jefferson Elementary School, when a smiling second-grader lost a tooth in class.
And there was blood.
Some youngsters might have recoiled in fright at such a scene. Buttrons students, conversely, loved the commotion. She looks like a zombie, one boy gushed.
She was smiling at me, and there was blood everywhere, Buttron said with a sheepish chuckle.
Buttron sent the youngster to the office so she could be cleaned up.
And so began Buttrons music teaching career at USD 257, where she instructs youngsters in kindergarten through second grade at Jefferson and McKinley grade schools.
The ebullient 23-year-old spoke about her changing career goals (she originally wanted to teach middle school band) and her lengthy commute (she travels to Iola daily from Lyndon, an hour trek.)
Buttron, an Atchison native, had always enjoyed music in school.
Its amazing at just how different music can be in different parts of the world, she said. You learn about cultures, how others view the world.
As a high-schooler, Buttron, who specializes in saxophone, was urged by her band teacher to consider pursuing music education as a career.
He started pushing me to think about music in college, she said.
Buttron decided on Washburn University, where her path crossed with Dr. Craig Trynon, who has since become the director of music there.
He was saxophone professor and jazz teacher, she said. He really inspired me throughout college. Hes an amazing teacher.
After college, Buttron worked as a student teacher for grades 5-12 in Wamego, when she realized that while she enjoyed working with older students, her greatest joy came from working with those younger.
I just love their excitement and their stories, she said. You can pull out old songs from your childhood that most people would think are too quirky. But kids absolutely love them, and they always have some sort of story to the song youre singing.
Buttron had two options this summer for teaching elementary school music: Iola or Emporia.
She opted for Iola, even though its a longer commute from Lyndon because of Iolas smaller class sizes.
I knew I always wanted to work in a small community, she said. Thats where I grew up, and thats what attracted me to Iola.
For the time being, Buttron must continue living in Osage County, where her fiance works in law enforcement. (Theyre engaged to be married next summer.)
Eventually, Id like to move closer, she said. But the commute isnt too bad.
BUTTRONS world of music extends beyond the classroom.
She also offers private saxophone lessons (her instrument of choice) although her college degree required her to learn a wide array of instruments, so she in turn can teach others.
Im definitely weakest at French horn, she laughed. Its fun getting to experiment with different instruments to see which ones you have a knack for playing. It was a whole new experience.
Her pupils will be exposed to some basic instruments, such as rhythm sticks and xylophones.
Music education is structured, just like English or science, she explained. It all flows together, especially at the elementary level,
You dont tell the kids, This is what youre learning today, she continued. But even practicing things like clapping along to songs, theyre learning specific techniques. Theyre learning about beat and basic rhythms.
Buttron also is appreciative of school districts placing greater emphasis on such classes as music, physical education and art.
It really helps with soft skills, she said. The kids become more well-rounded students.
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