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Kindergarten teacher uses music, sign language to reinforce lessons

POSTED: January 28, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Gainesville City Teacher of the Year

Judy Bowers, a kindergarten teacher at Centennial Arts Academy, was selected as the 2013 Gainesville City Teacher of the Year. Bowers uses songs and sign language to help reinforce lessons.

TOM REED/The Times

Judy Bowers, a Centennial Arts Academy kindergarten teacher, writes out words for a class lesson.

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For Judy Bowers, teaching is about compassion.

It's about going to New York City and seeing children living in stairwells, about developing a desire to work with kids of different abilities, different backgrounds and different families.

It's about building success and a love of learning.

That's why the kindergarten teacher at Centennial Arts Academy was selected as the Gainesville school system's Teacher of the Year for 2013.

"The best part of being a teacher is seeing the light come. When they get it, when they understand something they didn't understand before, that is the best thing," Bowers said.

Bowers didn't come to Georgia until graduate school, when she attended the University of Georgia and fell in love with Gainesville.

"I had been away from public school for a long time. ... I wanted to come back to full-time teaching," she said. "The logical thing to do was to come to Gainesville City Schools. It was a wonderful thing that happened to bring me to Centennial: they added a kindergarten, so I was able to set up that new classroom and start here."

Seven years later, Bowers has embraced the arts academy culture and mission wholeheartedly.

"Arts integration is taking a standard from the arts and using that to teach a specific standard from our curriculum," she said. "I learned about an arts strategy called the rondo ostinato."

It involves repetition of a main verse and the use of body percussion, such as tapping the hands on the legs.

Another strategy she employs in her classroom is the use of sign language. Her kindergartners use sign language both with the rondo ostinato lessons and other parts of the curriculum, such as the beginning, middle and ending sounds of words.

"Two years ago I started writing rondo ostinatos and (the verses) were dealing with different subject areas. One was money, and that became a unit which is now on the Pioneer (Regional Educational Service Agency) website and it's available to all teachers," Bowers said.

She's also written compositions about reading comprehension and the character value of caring, respect and honesty.

"Those are very abstract words. That's the value of arts integration, taking abstract concepts or something that's difficult to teach and putting it into something that's easier for the children to understand and relates to their real life," Bowers said. "Knowing that a teacher — one teacher — can change a life forever, that is the greatest reward you can ever have."



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