For one Kent schools teacher, this tune is sweet

Between the busy nights performing as a professional jazz musician and the jam-packed days teaching elementary-school band students, Darren Motamedy said the latter has become the more challenging career.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 1:46pm
  • News

Music teacher Darren Motamedy

Motamedy is teacher of the year

Between the busy nights performing as a professional jazz musician and the jam-packed days teaching elementary-school band students, Darren Motamedy said the latter has become the more challenging career.

But Motamedy, 49, must have it pretty well mastered to be named the Kent School District Teacher of the Year this year. He was surprised April 30 with the honor at Jenkins Creek Elementary School, one of the five schools at which he teaches.

“I’m pretty elated and pretty shocked still,” Motamedy said the day after he received the award. “There’s 1,700 teachers in kent, and to be bestowed this honor is a huge deal. All 1,700 of them are teachers of the year in my opinion, but to be the one that was chosen is humbling.”

The Central Washington University graduate worked as a substitute in the district for about 20 years as a supplemental job to his longtime career as a professional musician. But he made education more of a main focus in 2006, signing on with the district full time. His busy schedule now includes teaching instrumental music at Emerald Park, Grass Lake, Jenkins Creek, Park Orchard and Ridgewood elementary schools.

“I love teaching,” Motamedy said. “My focus has always been to be a professional, famous musician, but in the process of that I’ve taken the opportunity to continue teaching and the two have kind of gone hand in hand.”

He has excelled at both careers. The saxophone player has recorded nine original smooth-jazz albums to date, achieving national and worldwide status as an artist. Visit www.smoothjazz.com, and you’ll find him on the Top 50 Indie Chart at number six this week for his most recent album “Don’t Cha Know.” He’s also listed at number 40 on the Web site’s general Top 50 Chart, just below big names like Alicia Keys and John Legend.

He said the performance-career road is rocky, but his biggest challenge now is teaching.

“The more that I teach, the more that I find it a very challenging career,” Motamedy said. “There’s always something different and there are different students every year. It’s a really evolving career.”

But teaching, like performing, doesn’t come without its rewards, he said.

“I think the thing I love the most about teaching is that you can really see how much you’re helping the kids,” he said. “To see kids running from recess to the band room is pretty great.”

Motamedy was nominated by Park Orchard teacher Pam Johnson. She said she’s known the music teacher for years and has witnessed his skills as an educator.

“As talented as Darren is, he’s just as compassionate and kind,” Johnson said. “He goes in early, he helps kids before school, during his planning times, during his break times. And the kids are very enthusiastic about him. All the schools where he teaches want to claim him as their own.”

She said Motamedy has also used his music career to benefit his schools, often writing original pieces for students to play and performing for assemblies and other school events. He also has used his reputation among music venues and vendors to help secure donations for students who can’t afford their own instruments.

“He’s really shared his craft with this younger generation,” Johnson said.

She said she appreciates the district’s recognition of a teacher in the arts, as such recognition is more rare. Motamedy agrees.

“It really shows the Kent School District’s commitment to the arts,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that makes our district so well-rounded. Kent has great academic programs, but really puts focus on the arts as well. And our sports programs are great, too.”

He said music teaches students skills that will benefit them for life, and he’s glad the district supports it at the elementary level. It also teaches skills that will translate to other subjects, he said, such as history and math.

“It really teaches them team building skills, and it also teaches them the importance of individual excellence,” Motamedy said. “It’s such a great balancing act because not only do they have to think all of these things, but they have to perform them at the same time.”

Motamedy is now in the running for the regional Teacher of the Year Program. In September, one regional teacher will be selected to represent Washington State in the National Teacher of the Year Program.

To learn more about Motamedy’s music, visit www.darrenmotamedy.com or call his concert hotline at 206-940-3431.

Contact Daniel Mooney at 253-437-6012 or dmooney@reporternewspapers.com.

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