Making mark with music
Boyup Brook District High School music teacher Renee Knapp hits all the right notes when it comes to helping her students flourish and have fun in her lessons.
Renee began her career as a classroom teacher in South Hedland where she spent five years, before moving to Perth where she was made a level three teacher and then returned to Boyup Brook, her childhood town.
She said when she arrived back at her hometown to teach there had been a gap in music at the school, but it was one she had been happy to fill.
“My main teaching role since arriving at Boyup Brook about 13 years ago has been music and I absolutely love it,” she said.
“Boyup is a really musical town as it is and once I got started teaching here I could see the potential and talent the students had.”
One of the many tasks she has accomplished over the years at the school has been setting up a choir, which students from Year 3 to 6 can join.
“This is open to anyone and I think I have about 60 kids at the moment who are a part of it,” she said.
“I then have also helped to set up a vocal ensemble for the Year 5 to 10 kids and they are kids who want to explore their musical ability more.”
Renee said she had seen some amazing potential from the students she worked with and had managed to take a team of them up to the Bunbury eisteddfod for several years.
“We placed really well there, did it for a couple of years, but saw we could be doing more and so I set up a musical evening which has become the big annual event for the year,” she said.
“It includes sound production, special effects, stage lighting, live bands and all sorts of different things and the students work up towards that throughout the year.”
Another key factor Renee has brought to the school is songwriting and her students have entered the Australian Children’s Music Foundation Awards.
Renee said two students had received third place across the whole of Australia in Year 3 and Year 4.
“Sometimes living in a small town can limit the opportunities students get,” she said.
“I really just want to make sure they have a chance to explore their options in all areas of music.”
As well as getting the students to enter into State and national competitions, Renee said she also encouraged the students to make connections within the community.
“Living in a small country town makes community so important so we always perform at local things like town Christmases, aged care homes and Anzac Day services,” she said.
On top of her role as a music teacher, Renee is also the chairwoman of the school’s Positive Behaviour and Support committee.
“Having this committee has really just changed the whole culture of the school,” she said.
“The overall respect and resilience from both the staff and students has improved so much since this committee started up.”
All the work Renee has done with the school led to her nomination for the WA Premier’s Primary Teacher of the Year.
“I was nominated by school principal Bernard Beatty and I feel very honoured to be a finalist, I know that is pretty cliched but I am really happy and it is great to see some rural schools being recognised in these awards,” she said.
“I got an email while I was up in Perth for my dad’s funeral and was floored by it really, it gave me a little bit of joy during a really hard time.”
Renee said the best part about working at Boyup Brook District High School was being able to do a little bit of everything.
“My work in music, positive behaviour and mental health lets me enjoy every aspect of teaching, being a classroom teacher was great but this is much better for me,” she said.
“As teachers we an really make a difference in a child’s life and I love that about my job, I love being able to work so closely with the kids in music and watching them shine.”
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