Teachers Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Thank You, Teachers!

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, also known as National Teacher Day. The National Education Association notes that this is “a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.”

Here at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, we can’t sing the praises of teachers high enough – we love working with them and finding new ways to connect with teachers and their students. Teachers do too many amazing things for us to list them all. However, we are going to share our top six reasons why teachers ROCK, and because we are a music museum, we are using the guitar – a fundamental instrument of country music – and its six guitar string notes, listed from the bottom string up, as our inspiration: E B G D A E!

A graphic of a hand holding the neck of a guitar. The six strings are labelled bottom string to top string as EGBDAE/123456.

Graphic of a guitar neck with the strings labelled bottom to top as EBGDAE/123456. © KidsGuitarWorld.com

E String

Being a teacher is hard, but despite the challenges faced, teachers strive to encourage and excite their students to learn, think critically, and explore the world around them every single day. We often see the evidence of this with the student who come through our doors – many of them have learned about early country music or local history or technology in their classrooms already, priming them for a more meaningful experience and providing us with a lot of great questions and observations as we share the museum with them.

B String

And this leads to the tangible outcome of this prep – when teachers bring students to the museum. We are so grateful for the school field trips that are scheduled at the museum, and we’ve seen the number of these tours continually grow since we opened in 2014. Some teachers and students are coming for the first time; other educators bring their classes year-after-year. They come from our local Bristol, TN/VA schools, the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia region, and even further afield, including schools in Georgia, Northern Virginia, and Iowa!

Not only do teachers bring students to visit the museum, but they also put a lot of effort into the planning of and during these field trips, which always makes the experience better for all of us.

A large theater space with school students seated while a white man in a red shirt and khaki pants talks to them from the stage floor.

A student group is introduced to the museum and the orientation film by docent Richard Horner. © Birthplace of Country Music

G String

We are also lucky to get useful guidance from teachers. Through school tour surveys, teacher in-service workshops, and one-on-one conversations, educators provide us with amazing feedback that help us to improve our programs for students and teachers alike. In 2020 and 2021, we worked with a focus group of teachers from the Bristol, TN/VA public schools to hear about their ideas, suggestions, wants, and needs for our museum-based lesson plan project, and we also had our first teacher intern who helped us on the project and to deliver two impactful in-service workshops for K-12 educators. The insights we gained from this experience were invaluable!

D String

The teachers we partner with strive to develop creative and interesting ways to engage their students with the museum and its content. We’ve had so many positive experiences working with different classes and learning groups – from the YWCA TechGYRLS production of a radio show to mark the Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live! event; the fun activities we’ve done with the Virginia Middle School after-school club (including square dancing, the science of sound, and an upcoming instrument petting zoo); the class that had been immersed in Johnny Cash’s music before our Johnny Cash/Folsom Prison special exhibit in 2022; and talking to a high school class about the things that go into curating a small exhibit, how to write museum labels, and ways to engage people with their own content.

Left: A group of 8 young girls pose together in front of a chalkboard that says "YWCA TechGYRLS Radio Program 1pm." Right: A large group of male and female students pose in the Johnny Cash exhibit. They are all wearing black in honor of "the man in black"!

Left: The YWCA TechGRYLS pose with the notice of their radio show in the museum lobby. Right: A group of students honor the “man in black” by wearing all black when visiting 1968: A Folsom Redemption in 2022. © Birthplace of Country Music

A String

As we said earlier, being a teacher is a hard job. But the teachers we know are amazing advocates for their students and for the joy of learning. And they are ALWAYS doing so much to support their students, to help them thrive, to be a positive person in their life, and so much more.

And they also advocate for us – by bringing their classes to the museum, by sharing events and other opportunities we offer to students and their families, and by letting our community know that the museum is an important educational asset.

E String

Finally, the teachers who visit the museum  encourage smiles and laughs from their students throughout their time with us. They play Banjo Bingo; they sing along in the karaoke booth; they give a whole host of answers to one of our favorite questions: how many grooves are on a record?; they dance in the Immersion Theater; and so much more. They show the kids that you can learn AND have fun at the same time!

Left: Sullins Academy's Head of School and one of its teachers try out a student activity for the special exhibit Things Come Apart. They are both kneeling on the ground putting together a "vehicle" from PVC pipe. Right: A group of Sullins Academy students pose around their PVC pipe vehicle. There are six white students - 3 boys, 3 girls - and they are doing funny faces and poses.

Sullins Academy teachers and students took part in a vehicle-building exercise as part of the Things Come Apart special exhibit at the museum in 2017. © Birthplace of Country Music

Rene Rodgers is the Head Curator of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and oversees its educational programming. She loves teachers!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Do you remember coming back to school and being asked to write an essay on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”? Well, sometimes as adults, we get asked to do this too!

I spent part of my summer vacation – a much-needed respite from my 7:00am to whenever job as a North Carolina educator – learning about museum education at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. For three intense weeks, I completed an internship for my educational leadership doctoral program at Appalachian State University, working with the curatorial staff to design and implement a two-day in-service training for area teachers about the museum’s educational resources and helping to develop museum content lesson plans. Having worked in K-12 and community college education, I was not new to teaching; however, museum education is uniquely different, and this opportunity taught me an expansive amount. Most importantly I learned how museums are a vital non-traditional educational method, and this experience provided me with a fuller appreciation of their importance and impact on our communities and our history.

Introducting elementary school teachers to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s lesson plans. © Birthplace of Country Music

When most people think of school and learning, they think of sitting in desks in a classroom. Field trips to museums were treats awarded to the class and provided a break from the mundane everyday classroom monotony. This assessment isn’t wrong, but this internship taught me that there is much more to museums than what we experience in mere field trips. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a fun place to visit, filled with music and several interactive technologies for visitors to engage with the music. However, it is also a living educational gem, where the special exhibit is always changing and the curatorial staff is constantly seeking ways to improve the content and to provide visitors with memorable information.

Teaching is ongoing at the museum. When school groups visit, students get an introduction to the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and view a film about its history and impact before embarking on a scavenger hunt to learn more. They can also enjoy a game of Banjo Bingo, a fun, interactive way for them to learn about the instruments used in these important recording sessions. The museum’s Special Exhibits Gallery also offers a space for learning focused on different topics throughout the year – from music, Appalachian culture, explorations of art and portraiture, or even wider histories like Civil Rights or the history of work in America. These lessons are often wrapped in an interactive discussion about the artifacts and images on view. Even though students may not even realize it, they are learning valuable information despite not being in a traditional educational venue. The museum is teaching and providing a valuable avenue to provide education in a non-traditional way.

Three images:
Left-hand image: Four sets of lesson plans, two of which have blue and teal covers with their titles "The 1927 Bristol Sessions Story" and "The Instruments of the 1927 Bristol Sessions," and two of which are draft texts for lesson plans on technology and the science of sound and artists/personalities from the 1927 Bristol Sessions.
Top right: The author Amy Myers stands in front of several teachers seated at round tables in a large room. Amy is a white woman with blonde hair; she is wearing a black and white dress and is holding one of the lesson plans up next to a PowerPoint slide presentation.
Bottom right: A group of teachers sit at round tables in a large room. Near the brick wall at the back two teachers (one white man with a white shirt, one white woman with brown hair and a blue top) stand up -- one holds a poster they have created as a group for one of the learning activities.
Working with the curatorial team on the museum’s K-12 lesson plans project and sharing museum educational resources at the July teacher in-service gave me a unique insight into the enormous potential of museum education – and how fun it can be! © Birthplace of Country Music

Further, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is an important asset to the Bristol community and as a vehicle to explore the history of the region. The premise of the museum focuses on how country music grew out of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, but the museum’s content delves deeply into the rich culture of the Appalachians, a culture that has made Bristol the place it is today. Further, the expansive musical heritage of Bristol is alive and well at this museum, preserving vital information for the community and enabling generations to learn about and to understand their past. The importance of the museum’s role in preserving the area’s history cannot be understated. It is an integral part in preserving the community’s rich heritage.

The list of everything I learned while working at the museum could go on and on, but honestly these facets impacted me the most. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a beautiful venue that is dedicated to educating visitors about its history grounded in the region’s music. The staff are amazing, tireless professionals, dedicated to the museum’s mission. I am very thankful for this opportunity afforded me to work alongside these folks and to learn primarily from the curatorial staff. It has changed my outlook on non-traditional education, and I now carry the positive impact of the museum and the Bristol region with me wherever I go. Not only did this experience change how I view museums in general, but it made me further appreciate the role they fulfill in the educational realm. 

Check out the museum’s Education page to learn more about their offerings to the local community and K-12 educators. The museum’s suite of K-12 lesson plans will be uploaded to the website soon.

Amy Myers interned at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in 2021, helping curatorial staff to plan and produce museum lesson plans and deliver a two-day teacher in-service program. She is working on her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Appalachian State University, while also working as a teacher in the North Carolina school system.