DeKalb elementary music teacher says students’ smiles make it all worth it

DeKALB – Brianne Borgman says she gets chills hearing her students express themselves through music during her lessons at Jefferson and Malta elementary schools.

Although Borgman’s been teaching music for 18 years, she started her DeKalb District 428 career this year. When she arrived in DeKalb, Borgman said she was impressed with all the supplies at her disposal, what she called her beautiful music room and the welcomed guidance from the district’s administration.

While she prepped for the school year last fall, she said she was excited to meet her students in person. As she learned her students’ faces and names, she initially felt overwhelmed attempting to build that bond while they wore masks, she said.

So it felt even better, then, to learn their language through music.

“I got chills anytime a student was able to express themselves in their artwork or music,” Borgman said. “The arts are what bring us together at the root of who we are. They make us human and they are imperative in a child’s growth and development in life.”

Parker Weller, a 9-year-old at Jefferson Elementary School, is in Borgman’s music class. He said he’s taken an interest in music outside of school as well and also is learning how to play guitar.

“It calms me down sometimes when I’m mad and stuff,” Parker said. “I wrestle and before a wrestling tournament, I’ll use music to pump me up.”

Parker said what he likes most about Borgman’s music class is that he learns “a lot of great stuff” from her.

“I get to learn a couple chords on ukuleles and drums and [playing] my recorder,” Parker said.

Parker said he also recently performed in the school’s spring singing concert with Borgman.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking during some parts, but I was excited to be with my friends and sing,” Parker said.

When pondering what it might be like to not have music in school, Parker said he wouldn’t get to learn how to play instruments.

“I would be sad at some parts,” he said.

Fourth-grader Mason VanderBleek, also a current music student of Borgman’s at Jefferson Elementary School, said that he would describe Borgman’s temperament as nice.

“I think it’s a break from other stuff, like math,” Mason said. “So I don’t have to do that. ... ‘Cause sometimes it can get really boring.”

Mason said he’s looks forward ukulele lessons in Borgman’s class soon.

“I think that it’ll be, like, different. I’m excited,” he said. “ ... I like it because I like playing instruments.”

Borgman said it was heartening to hear Parker’s and Mason’s reasons for enjoying her music class.

“I’m glad that music class is a bright spot for you,” Borgman told Parker. “I know I enjoy teaching it to you.”

Springtime means her students are perking up, too, Borgman said, healthier and ready to learn.

“We are making progress as the students are starting to show much growth,” she said. “Seeing them sing, play instruments, dance, and even put on a wonderful concert for their parents has been amazing. Families are able to hear music again from their students. This is incredible after a couple of years of not being able to do that.”

Emily Weller, Parker’s mom, said this year is the family’s first year with Mrs. Borgman. She also heralded the spring concert.

“There were so many songs about peace that it truly brought tears to my eyes during some of the performances,” Emily Weller said. “Because it’s like, this is what it’s all about, you know? And it brings everybody together.”

Borgman said the students are so proud of what they’ve accomplished in class and have shown it with many thank you notes to her.

“Now that masks are optional, I’ve been able to see many of the students’ smiles and that is incredible,” Borgman said. “Their smiles make it all worth it.”