BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Dale Carnegie once said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This is true of anyone, everyone wants to know they are cared for. At Acorn, Valerie Couch is a living example of this quote, she is caring for her students and investing in their lives each and every day.
Valerie is the band teacher at Acorn High School. Along with the band, she also leads the choir for students as well. Valerie is no stranger to music, she has been playing music and singing herself since she was in high school. “I love music, I love teaching it and I love performing. It can be a lot of fun,” Valerie says smiling. She earned her Associate of Arts at Central Baptist College [CBC] while attending school on a vocal scholarship. After her time at CBU, she earned her Bachelor’s in Music from the University of Central Arkansas [UCA]. Valerie grew up in Polk County and attended Mena, when she had the opportunity to come back to the area she jumped at it. She took a job at Oden where she taught K-12 music. “It was a real family atmosphere there, it helped that my husband worked there as well,” she says with a smile. As much as Valerie loves music, she loves books and reading. “I decided to get my Masters in Library Science and then I worked in the Library as well. I worked at Oden for a total of 18 years, I had some great students,” explains Valerie.
When an opportunity provided itself for her husband Shawn to become the principal at Acorn, the band teacher position also opened up and so Valerie came to Acorn as well. “I wanted the opportunity to work where Shawn was and I’m glad I was able to come here, it’s been great,” she says. When Valerie first arrived at Acorn, she taught all grades for band. Valerie had a busy schedule. “I was booked up for a couple of years, I enjoyed it a lot, but I am blessed for the opportunity to focus on the high school band.”
Valerie enjoys teaching band, not only because it is a joy of hers, but she loves the difference it is making in students’ lives. “At Acorn we have tried to provide several opportunities for students, we want them to feel like they belong. It’s so awesome seeing the confidence that kids get while they are learning,” says Valerie proudly. It means a lot to Valerie that students want to take band or choir, although they are considered ‘academic’ and students get grades, it is not a requirement that students participate in band or choir. “It means the world to me that they take my classes; hopefully, it means that they enjoy what I’m teaching and they feel like I care about them,” says Valerie. As a result of Valerie’s care for students, the band has swelled to almost 100 students!
The administration and teachers at Acorn have tried to provide a place where students feel like they belong. Valerie’s efforts has helped move this vision forward. She is undoubtedly making band and choir fun, but maybe more than anything else, she cares about her students so much. “My students make it easy to come to work. Some days I can’t believe that I get to come here and work,” Valerie said beaming.
Life is full of relationships, relationships among families, friends, co-workers, and the list goes on and on. Valerie takes her job seriously because it is more than a job, it is about building relationships with her students. “My job isn’t just transferring information, it is totally about building relationships and caring for students,” says Valerie. While at college, she learned the impact that a teacher’s words can have on a student. “I was always tough on myself when it came to playing the piano. One day my piano teacher told me I did a good job, she had never said that before, but I remember how important it was to me,” explains Valerie. Since this interaction, she has tried to make sure that she is always speaking encouragement into the lives of her students. “I ask myself, do the students feel loved today? If I feel like they do, then I did my job that day.”
Valerie is an example to everyone around her that their words and actions can build into the lives of people. A kind word and a caring attitude towards others gives value to those around us, “I can forget, but our words carry a big impact in the lives of people,” said Valerie.