Friday, October 11, 2013
Summerville Elementary School music teacher Pam Christ’s life has often resembled what she tells her students: everything is driven by active movement.
A native of Rockfish, N.C., Christ’s love of music developed at an early age.
“I remember hearing my dad and his friend singing hymns at the kitchen table when I was a child,” she said.
When Christ was growing up she heard a lot of singing around her house and in church, but it was the inspiration of one teacher that infatuated her with music.
“My sixth grade teacher Miss Miller really got me involved with music and changed my life,” she said. “I ran home and told my parents about her and convinced them to buy me a piano.”
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro she taught at Murray-Lasaine on James Island from 1973-1978. She also worked as an itinerant at Riverland Terrace and Stiles Point while at MLES.
In 1978 she took a leave from teaching to raise her three daughters: Lori, Shelley and Ellen. She earned her masters degree in early childhood education from the College of Charleston and returned to teaching at Beech Hill in 1992.
She spent three years there until taking over at the school that her daughters grew up in: Summerville Elementary.
It has been 40 years since she took her first job and the grading has changed more than anything.
“(At MLES) I saw them once per week and they were graded on participation. Now we grade them on what they know and what they’re able to do. Once they started adding standards and assessing, everything changed.”
The most rewarding moments of Christ’s career have been the reminders of the impact she made on her students. Her experiences with former students’ parents have ranged from being lauded at the post office to a family affair at a restaurant downtown.
“I was at a restaurant in Charleston and (former student) Gardner Beson’s mother came up to me and introduced me to their whole family saying ‘This is Gardner’s music teacher.’ He just graduated with a degree in composing from South Carolina so that means a lot to me.”
Christ has encountered a new challenge that she didn’t face when she was on James Island, bigger classrooms.
“I like to speak to the kids when they walk by, build a relationship with them and try and help them if they’re having a bad day,” she said. “It can be difficult to engage all of the students when you have 29 kids in a class and make sure they all learn.”
One way that she tries to get to know the students is through her afterschool bucket band club. The kids create different ensembles using old paint buckets and pans as instruments. There are currently seven kids in the program and they perform at different school events, according to Christ.
She said that she does her best to keep things fresh in the classroom in order for the kids to learn in a fun environment.
“We do lots of different voice exercises like teaching them light voices or silly sounds to make. I also like for them to associate body movement with their pitches. It’s important for them to be active, to be involved and to always be moving.”