Great Bend teacher Jami Reed has been chosen as a recipient of a program called the Country Music Teacher Classroom Initiative. Reed’s third-grade class at Jefferson Elementary School will receive classroom supplies and a personal song-writing session with County Music Association member Jake Gill, who created the initiative.
Gill, a native Kansan who moved to Nashville to pursue his singing career, created the program this year and has already helped some 60 teachers and classrooms who were nominated by parents. Mrs. Reed’s wish list for her classroom is posted on Amazon.com, where items purchased will be shipped directly to her. To view the wish list visit http://a.co//7WDcnei.
“I guess I was lucky,” Reed said. When she first heard she’d been nominated by some of the parents from last year’s class, she was skeptical. “You know, you get these crazy emails.”
But after Gill contacted her, Reed answered some questions about why she loves teaching. She wrote:
“My greatest contribution to my teaching profession is that I truly love and care about the kids that I teach! Building a relationship with my students and teaching them life skills throughout each day is what I find to be the most valuable aspect of being a teacher. Showing them examples of kindness is very important to me. The children can ‘sense’ when someone truly cares about them. The rewards that I find in teaching are the smiles and the excitement in the children as they walk into my classroom each day. I love to greet them each morning with a smile and a ‘good morning!’
“Another rewarding point is when they hug me, and make me special notes and pictures and tell me I’m the best teacher ever! I love it when they hurry in to tell me something that they have done because they know I will be excited or happy for them. On the other hand, they also know that I am very sympathetic when something goes wrong or when they do not feel well. In conclusion, teaching is not just my job, it is my God given talent! I am truly blessed to be a teacher for the USD #428 School District!”
Reed said her wish list includes items for her classroom that range from the holiday-themed pencils she orders every year to some standing desks. She’d also like to replace the old boom box in her classroom and would love to have some cabinets and a white wooden podium for the front of the classroom.
Even more exciting than a new podium is the chance to have Gill meet her students and write a song with them to share with the school and community. But with the current restrictions due to COVID-19, it may have to be a Zoom meeting rather than an in-person visit.
“I hope we can do it for the kids,” she said, adding it would be especially uplifting at this time.
Gill said mental health awareness is particularly important during the pandemic, and children deal with the same stress as adults. “It’s important that we don’t forget about the kids,” he said.
He believes that song writing can help stimulate the creative dimensions of a child and provide a healthy emotional environment of expression.
“Song writing combines the therapeutic benefits of music with the creative release of bringing our thoughts to words,” he said. “Today’s child is experiencing more stress and trauma on a daily basis than in times before. To be able to express their thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner is crucial to a thriving development.”
On a mission
A native of Sylvia in Reno County, Gill has fond memories of spending time with his grandfather on the family farm. Listening to music was a huge part of that upbringing – particularly on 1070 AM, the legendary frequency of radio powerhouse KFDI, according to his biography at jakegill.net.
“My grandpa was the one that really exposed me to country music,” Gill recalls. “I remember when I was a sixth grader, and he would let me drive the tractor around the farm. We’d hear all the old-time greats like Hank and Willie.”
His road to a musical career began relatively later than most. He focused on studies in college, obtaining his degree, and establishing his own chiropractic office in Hutchinson. It wasn’t until his early 30s that he considered giving music his all as a career.
He is now a seven-year member of the Country Music Association. He was a third-round finalist for NBC’s “The Voice” from auditions held in Dallas in 2012, then won a song-writing contest that gave him the opportunity to play on the main stage at Country Stampede and open for Jason Aldean in front of more than 50,000 people.
Throughout the last two and a half years, he’s also raised tens of thousands of dollars for nonprofit organizations around the world.
For the past three months, he’s been doing mission work for Child Fund International (childfund.org).
He’ll also be at the Eagles in Great Bend at 8 p.m. on Sept. 11, raising money for Hope for Heroes, a therapeutic riding program for veterans. Other upcoming performances include Sept. 5 at the Midland Railroad Hotel in Wilson and Sept. 10 at the Polo Bar and Grill in Hutchinson.