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This is an essay submitted to EdNC by Mary Long, a seventh grade student at Woodlawn Middle School, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. Mr. Robert McConnell inspired this submission. He's the band director at Woodlawn Middle School in Alamance-Burlington Schools.

“This essay is about my band teacher, Mr. McConnell,” Long wrote. “This essay includes his profession before teaching, things he does on a regular basis that make him so great, and why I appreciate him.”

This essay is about my marvelous band director, Mr. McConnell. This includes his career choice before becoming a teacher, which is very exciting. It also includes things that he does on a regular basis that make him an all around amazing person. But, finally and most importantly, this includes why I appreciate him.

Mr. McConnell was a trumpet player for the United States Air Force Band for at least 25 years. Mr. McConnell uses his experiences from the Air Force to teach us valuable lessons about music. He has been all over the United States with the USAF. Personally, I love all of his Air Force stories, I always can learn something important from them, whether it is about music or life in general.

Something valuable I have learned from his stories is to never give up, which leads me to my next topic. Something that Mr. McConnell says every single day is to never give up and to keep trying. He has changed many students views of their mistakes. We used to say, “I give up” or “I can’t do this.” But now we say, “Can I try again?” and “Can we play this through again?” This has also helped boost the confidence of some of my peers.

Mr. McConnell has helped some of the students in my classes to realize their real passion, whether it is to switch to another instrument or move to another class that would fit them better. He has done so much for the students in the band this year, I don’t know how we could ever repay him. He loves every single student equally, and everyone smiles when they come into his classroom because they know that amazing music and love will be in that classroom.

There has not been one day I have walked into his classroom and have not been met with a smile. In band I know I can walk in and be accepted for being the “band geek” or the kid who loves music. In band we have fun, we joke around, and then we get back to work. Mr. McConnell always finds a way to make everyone have fun.

Last but definitely not least, the reasons I appreciate him. Like I said before, Mr. McConnell loves all of his students. But something he does that I appreciate is giving shoutouts or ​acknowledgments​ when they’re needed. He doesn’t just point out random people for good things unless they actually did the good thing. If someone surpasses a new goal of theirs or does something fantastic, he’ll give that person a shoutout, which will give us a boost of confidence.

Another thing I appreciate is how he talks out situations that happen. He doesn’t just start yelling at the specific student, he just takes care of the problem and moves on. Which one, doesn’t waste time, and two, doesn’t give the person the attention they may be seeking. This is highly appreciated because many of my other teachers make small situations become much bigger than are needed and cause distractions that waste time.

The next thing I appreciate about Mr. McConnell is how dedicated he is. He doesn’t have to stay after school to help students, he doesn’t have to get to school extra early to help students, he doesn’t have to answer emails to help students on his days off. But he does. He goes above and beyond to help all of his students. Which is highly appreciated by me, especially because this is his first year teaching. Considering that this is his first year teaching, he is an astounding teacher.

Something I’m most appreciative of is how much he cares about his students. He tries to make sure each person is successful and feels loved. He will talk to people after class so that they will be on the same page and so they will understand each other, which is one of the many ways he proves he cares. Of course, he demonstrates how much he cares in many other ways. But, to be honest there are way too many ways that he does to say. Mr. McConnell has many ways he shows he cares about his students but it’s not only the students he shows respect to and shows that he cares, it’s also the other teachers. Mr. McConnell always takes the other teacher’s comments into deliberation. Mr. McConnell is just a kindhearted guy.

Finally, I just want to thank Mr. McConnell. He has changed me so much this year. He has changed my self-confidence by far. He has me smiling every day. He has brought a sense of love to our school that was missing before. He is a great mentor and advice-giver. I can always rely on him, no matter what. He is the one teacher I know I can go and talk to if I’m having a bad day.

I am so grateful that I have a band teacher like him. I am so thankful that he decided to come to our school to teach us. Thank you.

Mary Long

Mary Long is a seventh grade student at Woodlawn Middle School in Alamance-Burlington Schools. Her favorite class is band and she plays the trombone. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is write, because it is very peaceful.