Mattie Kotzur '16

As music teacher at Ford Elementary in Georgetown, Texas, Mattie Kotzur’s days are busy, juggling classes from kindergarten up to fifth grade. Whether she’s teaching second graders about Mozart or showing fourth graders the correct way to hold a recorder, Kotzur approaches each day with positivity, determination and joy.  

She didn’t always plan to be a music teacher, but her path led her here - and looking back, she knows she landed right where she’s supposed to be.

“Initially, I planned to go into medicine, but in retrospect I realize my passion for music and teaching was always there,” Kotzur reflects. “I remember as a child using my whiteboard to teach my stuffed animals, or pretend I was the conductor and they were the band.”

Music has been a part of Mattie’s life for as long as she can remember. “I started piano as a child and played in the band in middle school. I can’t imagine not having music in my life.”

Mattie Kotzur '16 Choosing Southwestern

“I looked at several Texas colleges, but one of my high school teachers strongly encouraged me to consider Southwestern.” After researching and visiting the campus “I knew it was the right choice for me. It felt like home.”

She remembers during her campus tour “looking around and thinking that I could see myself there. I loved the yellow Pirate bikes around campus. People are friendly. The academics are rigorous, yet there is an inclusiveness around campus.”

She started her college studies a science major, but before long her interests veered more and more toward music. She considered weaving music into her medical studies - perhaps music therapy or neuroscience. But after a while she realized that combining her two passions, music and education, was the right fit for her. “When I attended the TMEA convention, I always gravitated to the elementary education booths. The more I considered it, the more I realized that was always my path – I just hadn’t opened my eyes.”

“Southwestern offers a great education program where you can graduate fully certified to teach in four years.” Kotzur did her student teaching locally at Cooper Elementary, then a placement with Tippet Middle School’s orchestra. She then did another orchestra placement at Westwood High School in Round Rock. She graduated in the spring of 2016, and started at Ford Elementary that fall.

“Even on the worst days I still get at least ten hugs.”

A Rewarding Career

Kotzur reflects on her experience so far. “It has been amazing. The students are eager to learn, and keep me laughing and on my toes. As with any new job there are challenges, but the rewards are amazing.” She points out that “Even on the worst days I get at least 10 hugs!”

The music curriculum is somewhat flexible, so she follows a framework but customizes it with things she believes will interest the kids. “I use songs that the kids relate to, or play games to teach rhythm.” She’s always looking ahead to new ideas or possibilities. “We’re working on recorders now, but I’d love to bring ukuleles into the classroom!”

She also leads the Instrument Ensemble and Ford Elementary choir, after-school extracurricular activities for third through fifth graders. “It’s so great for the kids – in addition to learning music, they practice skills such as working together. It boosts their confidence and gives students the opportunity to perform in front of groups and in different settings, such as the Red Poppy Festival.”

When asked what advice she would give to a current college student, Kotzur recommends “Find satisfaction in what you’re going to do. Choose a field that you enjoy.” She credits her family for being supportive and encouraging her to follow her passion. “My extended family has several people in the medical field, but we also have several in education. There was no pressure from my family to choose one path over another, and they are thrilled that I’m in a position that I love and can truly make a difference.”