Elementary music education teacher Zachary Snider begins everyday at Central Elementary School in Moore walking the halls and telling kids to have a great day; almost as if he has a song in his step.
His first class period is reserved for planning so he is fortunate to visit with and welcome students in the morning while planning for future classes. The career music teacher then conducts seven classes daily, helping nearly 450 to 500 students a week on average learn music concepts.
Mr. Snider has always been around music and enjoys sharing his appreciation for music with his students. Growing up with a musical family, his mother played the flute and he dreamed of working in the foreign mission field teaching music to children.
Majoring in instrumental music education, the Edmond North graduate attended the University of Central Oklahoma in his hometown. He began playing clarinet in the fifth grade and later switched to oboe. He went to college where he played oboe and alto saxophone. When he graduated from college, there weren’t many high school band director jobs open. Mr. Snider wanted to teach instrumental music but when a colleague talked to him about elementary education he thought opening up his options to include elementary schools wasn’t a bad idea.
Turns out Mr. Snider’s hunch was right. He had interviews with three elementary schools almost immediately, teaching both singing and band to students. With his certification he was able to open up his job search to include elementary jobs. Nine years later, he still loves every moment of teaching at Central Elementary.
A New Mission Field
His mission field now is to inspire kids to love music, appreciating classics from the 1700’s to current pop songs.
“Knowing that I’m planted in a Title I, low-income school, I have the opportunity to be a positive influence on children where I’m at. I have daily reminders that these kids are looking up to me.
“One student recently lost her dad. She told me her dad loved music, and that I remind her of him with my love for music, and my jokes. I’m glad I can connect with my class,” he said.
Teaching never gets boring for Mr. Snider. Although some days may be overwhelming, he has fun teaching, whether he is making up games to complement music class or teaching students to count different rhythms.
Mr. Snider is always looking to incorporate games into music concepts. For example, if the class sings, “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” the students pass a bean bag around and when the music stops, the student with the bean bag has to pull a Jenga block out of the oversize Jenga tower that stands in the middle of the classroom. When the Jenga tower falls it is like the line in the song – “And the walls came tumbling down.” This exercise is designed to help students learn about syncopated rhythms, the off-beat of music.
Depending on the grade level, students can be overheard singing variations of “Baby Shark” or beating rhythm sticks where the tempo gradually picks up speed and they have to keep up with the beat. Fourth graders may learn to read music on the staff by playing a recorder – a woodwind instrument. Students may also learn to play the tuned percussion tubes Boomwhackers or the xylophone.
“Everyone learns to read music – at least on a basic level,” Mr. Snider said. “The young ones toss a pig at a giant 5’ x 7’ carpet on my floor that displays a music staff. The students have to guess the note where the pig lands on the staff.”
A Love for Music Appreciation
Throughout his classes, Mr. Snider teaches that listening to or playing music is a way to express one’s feelings.
“I teach students to dig deeper to appreciate music. Music helps one understand and communicate their emotions,” Mr. Snider said. “I recently received an email from a former student who is now in high school. He was so thankful to me for teaching him to love music. He said music helped him get through some rough stuff, and probably saved his life. I’m doing something right, if I’m getting through to the students.”
Teaching has become such a rewarding mission field for Mr. Snider. Daily, he gets to inspire our future leaders to do better.
“I teach to see the kids grow,” he said. “I’m really where I’m at because that’s where God put me. The joy I get from teaching is fulfilling. However, when I make it about me, I forget why I teach. I teach to change the lives of the students. What other profession can say that? Other professions don’t have the ability to impact children one-on-one.”
Mr. Snider has certainly impacted his fair share of students throughout the years. Within the Moore Public Schools district, seniors have the opportunity to go back to their elementary school and do a walk through.
“Last year, 10 students came to my door and asked if they could have one last session with Mr. Snider. I used to be taller than them. Now, one student is 6’7”, plays basketball and has a scholarship to play college ball,” he said. “The students came back to reminisce and let me know the positive impact I had on them. It was great to hear them say, ‘We love you Mr. Snider.’”
When Mr. Snider isn’t teaching music, he is umpiring little league games. He also performs with the church orchestra, along with his wife Katie, at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Mr. Snider met his wife Katie in college. She studied music education and child development at UCO. The Sniders have two children, Hannah and Aaron.