Teacher Spotlight: Elliot Plummer, a life of music and family.

February 23, 2021

Teacher Spotlight: Elliot Plummer, a life of music and family.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbybank.com with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

LUDINGTON – Inspired by family and former teachers, Ludington Area School District teacher, Elliot Plummer knew from a young age that he was going to become a teacher, a music teacher. Plummer has taught choir at OJ DeJonge Middle School and Ludington High School for the last six years, along with directing a choral ensemble at West Shore Community College.

“My family and my teachers were without a doubt my biggest inspirations,” Plummer said. “I had excellent educational role models all around me growing up. My dad was a professor and director at WSCC, my mom was, and still is, the director of the high school drama club, my Aunt Sue was a well-respected educator in Missouri, and all of the excellent teachers I had coming up in the LASD.”

A 2010 graduate from LHS, a 2015 graduate of Grand Valley State University and currently working on his graduate studies at Messiah University, Plummer stated that there were a handful of teachers who made specific impressions on his K-12 education and helped him decide the path he needed to take after graduation.

“Specifically, there were four teachers that really inspired me,” he said. “My first and second grade teacher, Kathy Radtke showed me what the heart of a genuine educator should look like. I wasn’t the best-behaved kid, but she gave me the room to be myself, was gentle and patient with me, and honestly loved me. I still get teary when I think about her. When I got to middle school and high school I really started to care about music, so Becky Sopha, Bob Parker and Ted Malt were huge influences. Each left their mark on me. Becky taught me how to love my voice and how to use it as an instrument, Ted taught me organization, discipline and how to strive for musical excellence, and Bob, like Kathy, showed me what relational education is all about. I couldn’t have hoped for better teachers. All that to say, I teach, because I want to pass on the rich tradition of relational teaching that has been shown to me, I care deeply about our future generations, I love music, and I feel called by the Lord to be doing what I’m doing.”

Plummer stated that one of the greatest joys he gets to enjoy every day is to be able to share his great love for music with his students.

“I get to make music with my students every day,” he said. “I love the opportunity that is unique to both Keith’s (Kuczynski, the band director) position and my own. We have the opportunity to really get to know and invest in our students. If a kid sticks with choir, and/or band from sixth grade through twelfth grade, we (Keith and I) will have spent six years with them. In that amount of time, you can create a familial atmosphere and generate relationships that last much longer than the few years spent within the walls of OJ and LHS. I love the fresh and numerous challenges that education, and specifically music education brings. In the choir room, we are trying to acquire musical, cultural, historical, philosophical, social, emotional and physical knowledge to better ourselves and our craft as vocal musicians. I love getting to work in a field that is so dynamic. There are always new things to learn, techniques and methods to try, and great conversations to be had with my colleagues.”

As a choir teacher, Plummer gets a unique opportunity to work with students outside of the classroom and he views those moments as special and important for all students to experience.

“I would love to see more opportunities for authentic experiences,” he said. “So often we (educators and students) can get stuck within the four walls of our classroom. One of the things that I love about working in the performing arts is that the true being of our content lives in the doing of the thing. Performing provides us with the opportunities to get out of the classroom and into the community whether it be through concerts, festivals or community events. I wish that every discipline could provide similar “tangible” experiences for their kids to make their content come to life. One of the things that I would love to see education do better, is what I think LASD is already doing, and that is to prioritize the relationships between teacher and student, school and family and district and community.”

Just as educators help influence Plummer to become an educator, he also has some words of advice for students who might want to pursue a career in education.

“Nosce te ipsum (know thyself),” he said. “Not everyone is called to be an educator, just as not everyone is called to be a mechanic, psychologist or surgeon. Education is a truly noble profession, but it is not without its challenges. It has never been, nor will it likely ever be, a glamorous profession. Be prepared to endure difficulties from students, parents, legislature and the tensions that education brings into your personal life. However, despite all of that, it is truly rewarding. If you want to go into education talk to real educators, go sit in a classroom for a day and then think, pray and meditate on it.”

Any educator would make the claim that the subject matter they teach is as important as all the others, Plummer is no exception, and he is very passionate about music education and how important it is for students to partake in some type of music class during their K-12 experience, not to just learn a love for music, but because music helps students in ways a lot of the other subject matters don’t.

“Music education. It is paramount,” he said. “I think the broader, and maybe more important, question is how important are the arts to students? The answer is the same. There are many similar values that can be found between the arts and another honored pursuit: athletics (i.e., work ethic, independence, the ‘we’ not ‘me’ mentality, and pride). However, the defining characteristic that makes the arts so crucial to the development of students is that they are about actively engaging in what it means to be human. The arts are considered part of the humanities, so when you engage in the arts, you are interacting with your shared humanity. We are endeavoring to create something, whether it be a piece of visual art, a dance, an instrumental performance, a song, a piece of theatre, all with the expressed purpose of connecting to the past through a performance in the now that can change our actions (both corporate and individual) in the future. Music education is just one aspect of the invaluable study of the arts and what it means to live well.”

Though Plummer lives and breathes music, there is something else he is very proud of. Plummer and his wife Hannah (Yankee), both LHS graduates, have spent their six years of marriage serving the community as foster parents, which has become very important to the couple.

“I don’t consider myself to be very special, but those that are, are my wife of six years Hannah Plummer, my daughter Lucy, and sons Asher, John and Emery,” Plummer said. “As important as education and music are to me, my family is my true legacy. One other important thing to consider would be the desperate need in our community for foster parents. There is an excellent resource group, the 14:18 Alliance which my wife and I are happy to talk about with anyone who is interested in foster care.”

As education continues to move in different directions due to world-wide pandemics, funding, etc., Plummer is looking forward to whatever the educational world brings his way, and he is ready to take it on through music and through a love for what he does and who he gets to do it with.

“I really do work in a great school district with great colleagues and the best kids.”

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