Thumma’s natural teaching ability plays out in music education

Monticello K-4 music teacher Nick Thumma directed the Carpenter Christmas concert on Dec. 5 at MHS. Thumma has been teaching in Monticello for 13 years. “I always felt like a natural teacher,” he said. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     “We truly have a great district that we can all be proud of,” praised MCSD Elementary Vocal Music teacher Nick Thumma, “and there is no ‘I’ in team. We are all part of a great team, and that team consists of students, parents, teachers, administrators, staff and the community as a whole.”

     Having worked with high schoolers at a larger school district (Western Dubuque) for two year, Thumma quite enjoys a smaller district like Monticello.

     Thumma is the K-4 vocal music teacher. He’s in his 13th year with the MCSD; having taught for a total of 15 years now.

     When Thumma started working for the MCSD, he taught K-5, and made his way into three of the district’s buildings (Shannon, Carpenter, and the middle school). Now, he spends half his day at both Shannon and Carpenter.

     “I spend time in each building every day,” he said.

     He sees each grade level twice a week for 40 minutes. Aside from vocal music, Thumma said he also introduces musical instruments to the younger kids. Second through fourth grade practice the keyboard, third graders play the recorder, and second grade try out the xylophone.

     “We give them a mixture to get acclimated to,” said Thumma. Once they hit fifth grade, they can try out for band.

     Aside from vocal music, Thumma is also the K-12 fine arts curriculum leader. This entails devising teaching plans for all of the district’s fine arts staff/teachers.

     “I have enjoyed being a leader in the district and the smaller school size makes it easier to get into a leadership role,” he said.

     Growing up in Davenport and now residing in Dubuque, Thumma said a small school is the perfect fit.

     “This is a close-knit community,” he said. “People are always willing to lend a hand.”

     He said even though there’s one elementary music director, those in other buildings are always willing to help out at concerts.

     “There’s a vested interest here,” added Thumma. “The staff is very close and great relationships.”

     When it comes to teaching music, Thumms said the initiatives and curriculum are different than other subjects when it comes to grading and standards.

     “With every new initiative comes a new challenge,” Thumma said. “But taking those head-on can be rewarding.”

     What used to be taught through textbooks is now taught using hands-on technology such a SmartBoards and iPads. Thumma said the 1:1 technology goal the MCSD has for the next school year will also apply to his classroom.

     “There are a lot of apps out there that are beneficial for music education,” he said of services available on iPads and more. “Students can learn to make their own music.”

     Thumma said the district certainly sets itself apart from other schools when it comes to taking the lead on various curriculum goals. He credits District Curriculum Director Gretchen Kriegel for that success.

     “She takes the lead and other districts look to us on how things are done,” shared Thumma.

     Leadership is something Thumma takes pride in. He is the current vice president and in-coming president of the Monticello teachers’ association, MEA.

     “It gives us a voice outside of the classroom,” he said.

     Working with his fellow teachers, Thumma said he’s looking forward to the discussions about the possibility of new school facilities.

     “We could definitely use newer buildings to better fit our needs,” he said.

     Thumma always knew he wanted to be a teacher, music teacher to be more exact. Former choir and band directors from his own youth spired him to pursue this career.

     “In high school music became important to me, and I always felt like a natural teacher,” he said.

     Thumma was the youth director at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Monticello. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education for K-12 from Upper Iowa University.

     Thumma, his wife, and three stepchildren enjoy spending time together, whether at musical events, concerts, or traveling to get away for a short time. He also enjoys fishing, karaoke, and shopping.


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