SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Reed Academy is home to Springfield Public School’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year. Daniel Gutierrez is now in the running to be named the statewide winner as well.
He’s the choir teacher at Reed, and he’s in tune with his choir in more ways than one. Some of the most inspiring stories are told through music, and this one is no different.
"If someone's in my class, and they're just singing and it's just isolated at that, then that's not the purpose," Gutierrez said. “The purpose is for them to go home and for their families to see a difference in them - for their friends, for community members to see, 'wow this person has had some sort of positive change in their life.'"
A lot of times, that change happens in his classroom. But he’s much better known as “Mr. G.”
"Winning teacher of the year in Springfield was one of the joys of my life,” Gutierrez said.
Then, he won the regional title.
"Which was really shocking. I did not expect that at all,” he said.
Now he goes on to compete against five others for the state title, which is music to his students’ ears. Take, for instance, eighth graders Mattie King and DeMarco Jones.
"Mr. G is honestly my favorite teacher I've ever had. He's very different from every other teacher,” King said.
Jones couldn’t agree more.
"I'm just gonna ask... do your teachers throw monkeys at you? do they call your parents for no apparent reason? Do they show funny videos of themself? I didn't think so,” Jones said.
Mr. G also has a unique audition process. It goes a little something like this: "I'll say 'hey make this sound: boop.’ And they'll say no. And I'll say,’ just do it one time, I just want to see if you can do it.’ And if they can do it on pitch, I'll bring them into choir,” Gutierrez said.
From that, he’s grown the program from about 15 students to nearly 350, which is about half the Reed student body. But a growing choir means growing needs. Mom and Choir Booster Club President Beth Finke is working with Mr. G to address that need.
"Right now we're having a big push to try to make finances, just, not make them a barrier for kids to participate,” Finke said.
The booster club is in the process of getting started, but is already fundraising and accepting donations to help provide black pants and socks for choir students, as well as fund school trips and competitions. King says, part of the reason Mr. G has been able to grow the program so much, is because of his recruiting methods.
"He likes to find students where students wouldn't normally be found,” King said. “Like, some of our best singers, have been found in lunch detention or ISS."
Gutierrez told KOLR10 - many of those students have stayed out of trouble to stay in choir.
"I know as a fact, that some of my students, they make it a priority to behave their best, to listen better to students, to do better with their homework because they want to make sure they're in good standing with the choir program,” Gutierrez said.
Mr. G isn’t only there for his students through the high notes. He’s there to help through the low notes as well.
"Last year I went through the hardest thing in my life, the loss of my mother,” Jones said. “He helped me through it, but also helped me better my singing because I performed at the funeral."
No matter how Mr. G makes out in the state competition, he could very well be the teacher of these students’ lives.
"His class specifically has made me who I am today, so I'm thankful for him,” Jones said.
King added, "I'm glad that he's my teacher, and I'm glad that I got to do this, and I love him."
Mr. G travels to Jefferson City this coming week for the next step in the state Teacher of the Year competition, where he will interview. He told KOLR10 he is unsure when the state award will be announced.
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