Canyon Creek Elementary teacher hits all the right notes

In talking with Canyon Creek Elementary School music teacher Patty Bourne, one quickly gets the feeling that she sort of likes the students in her Bothell classroom.

In talking with Canyon Creek Elementary School music teacher Patty Bourne, one quickly gets the feeling that she sort of likes the students in her Bothell classroom.

In describing them, she emphasizes phrases such as “tremendous potential,” states that what they can do creatively is “mind blowing.”

After even five minutes with her, you believe her comments when a non-melodic crush of instrumental noise rises from her music room during a school recess.

“This is gold to me,” Bourne states, and you don’t for a second think she is being cliche.

Still, what you pick up on most when speaking with Bourne is that she appears to be having an awful lot of fun.

“My passion is teaching, without a doubt,” Bourne said.

That passion is now, without a doubt, being recognized. Bourne recently was named the Washington Elementary Music Educator of the Year by the Washington Music Educators Association.

Her award will be presented Feb. 13 at the association’s annual gathering.

Canyon Creek Principal Bill Bagnall described Bourne as an outstanding educator and the author of two music textbooks and numerous scholarly articles. But Bagnall also commented on her obvious enthusiasm.

“She’s in the right field,” he said. “Her skills and her gifts all come together.”

A trumpet player and singer by training, Bourne has spent 28 years as a teacher, this being her 15th year at Canyon Creek. She came to the school after serving as a professor at Central Washington University. During her time at the college, Bourne said she went out of her way to make time to teach at a local elementary school that didn’t have the funding for a full-time music instructor.

“I just really came to realize that I wanted to teach kids again,” Bourne said and shortly began to expand once more on the possibilities they represent. Watching those possibilities come to fruition is one reason she chose to return to teaching youngsters.

“I get kids for seven years… I truly get to watch them grow up,” Bourne said. “That isn’t anything I take lightly.”

Scattered around Bourne’s classroom are a large selection of instruments, from flute-like recorders to guitars to large marimbas, the latter made by her husband’s company, Bourne Marimbas. Bourne didn’t say so directly, but it’s a safe guess the large variety of instruments comes in handy for the large variety of music played and studied by Bourne’s students. One of her stated goals is to “engage students with music from around the globe.”

“It’s not just West European dead guys,” she said, referring, of course, to the composers of the standard classical music cannon.

“I do love that music,” Bourne said. “But I love tonal colors. In classical music, there’s a certain palette that exists. But there’s a whole world of other colors out there.”

Bourne said about 80 percent of the world’s music isn’t written down, including some of the best music that exists. Her students could help put some of that music on paper, since reading and writing music is a big part of Bourne’s curriculum.

“I try to make it a very deep and involved curriculum,” she said.

For Bourne, music and the arts are kind of a family affair. As already noted, her husband makes marimbas for a living. He also plays guitar, the two have performed together (she limits her public performances to singing) and their two daughters have both been involved with the arts in Northshore schools. The oldest is now studying theater in Dallas, Texas, which is why Bourne won’t be receiving her award in person.

Bourne stated she has missed one previous meeting of the Washington teacher group, that absence coming the year her first daughter was born. She’ll miss this year’s meeting because of a long-planned trip to Dallas to visit that same daughter. A student teacher studying with Bourne will accept the award for her, a student who has studied Bourne’s first textbook in her teaching classes.

Bourne several times commented on the support she receives from Canyon Creek and the Canyon Creek PTA.

“I’m allowed to be the best teacher I can be… I feel like I’m an integral part of the school, and not all music teachers feel that way.”