Oklahoma couple Justin and Melissa Lee connected over their shared love of music and now they teach young singers at Shawnee Public Schools together
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — It was in a music theory class at Oklahoma Baptist University that Justin and Melissa Lee met and now, seven years later, they’re married, raising their five-year-old son, Jadon, and together guide the young singers of Shawnee Public Schools.
Both grew up singing in church and playing piano and eventually discovered their passion for teaching music.
“Once I found out that one could be a music teacher and combine the two things that I loved, then I knew it was definitely for me,” Melissa Lee said.
Melissa Lee has been teaching sixth to eighth grade choir and general music at Shawnee Middle School for the last six years. Justin Lee has been the choir director and music teacher at Shawnee High School for four years. He has four choirs including Mixed Choir, Freshmen Treble Choir, Advanced Women’s and Show Choir, the Shawnee News-Star reported.
Between the two of them, there are around 300 students taking choral, music appreciation, guitar and other such classes. Combined daily they see around 500 students.
“I just love being with students. I love seeing them have those moments where they’re able to just be creative and get away from other things throughout the day and just come in the room and sing,” Melissa Lee said.
The wife and mother said she’s fond of watching her students’ progress from their first choir class with her to their last choir class with her husband.
“I just enjoy being able to witness the process of them coming and not knowing certain things and seeing their growth in three years and then getting to watch them with Justin for the next four years is beautiful to see…His seniors now were my first group of seventh graders…,” she said.
For Justin Lee, the best aspect of teaching music is bringing students from all types of backgrounds with distinct voices together for a performance.
“I love that it can attract all different types of students but also there’s that fact we all each have individual voices, individual talents and for me bringing them all together to achieve one goal in one piece, sounding the same, putting our efforts together to make this overall beautiful sound is pretty amazing,” he said.
Both teachers feel they benefit from having the same career.
“I think it all goes hand in hand. I know for us it makes it easier…we understand each other. We understand the amount of time we have to put into our jobs. So that’s one aspect I’ve always been grateful for,” Justin Lee said.
For Melissa, she explained Justin makes her a better teacher and keeps her grounded.
“He sets very clear expectations. I know exactly what he expects the students to be able to do when they leave me and that keeps me very accountable and I like having that,” Melissa Lee said.
Justin Lee also explained the students are fortunate to have consistency throughout their choral careers.
“Also the aspect that because we are married and we had the same classes, we’re pretty much the same teacher. We teach the same. We have the same philosophy and so those kids get that continuation from sixth grade all the way until they graduate…,” he said.
Before he started at Shawnee High School, Justin Lee said, his position was part time but it became full time when he took over and because of that, the music faction has completed an already exceptional arts program.
“When the school decided to make this a full time position, it just allowed it to complete the overall department. I think too we share a lot of the same kids in band, drama, art and we kind of take pride in that,” Justin Lee said.
It is the goal for both choir directors to encourage young musicians and equip them for the future.
“I try to create lifelong musicians and students that when they leave me they can still pursue not just choral music, but whatever music that they want to pursue,” Justin Lee said. “I would hope that my teaching is not just applicable to their high school career. My goal, I know for (Melissa) too, is to create lifelong learners.”
Melissa Lee explained she strives to ingrain confidence in her students from the very beginning.
“I want to build a positive relationship with my students to where they feel safe to be able to sing because especially in middle school at that age they sometimes can struggle to feel comfortable singing and to be vulnerable and to be creative and if I can get them to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes… then the ultimate goal is that they continue doing this,” she said.
As the year continues, both choral directors want their groups to be successful, distinguished and respected.
Information from: The Shawnee News-Star, http://www.news-star.com
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