My Name Is... Randy Runyan

Music teacher has roots in Colorado coal country

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/30/21

Seeing the humanity in others I’ve been a middle school music teacher for 13 years. Middle school is some of the most rapid development kids go through. As a music teacher, I get them all three …

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My Name Is... Randy Runyan

Music teacher has roots in Colorado coal country

Posted

Seeing the humanity in others

I’ve been a middle school music teacher for 13 years. Middle school is some of the most rapid development kids go through. As a music teacher, I get them all three years. At the beginning of sixth grade they’re these meek, shy kids, and by eighth grade you can see the adult they might be.

From day one, I ask students to interrogate why we bother teaching the arts. Art is one of the few things that truly makes us distinct from other species. When you see that humanity in yourself, you can see it in others.

I’ve had students who were not what you’d call a traditional music student. Some have wound up in gangs. I’ll run into them around town. I’m not sure if they’ve touched an instrument since eighth grade, but they’ll still give me a nod. That moment of connection is enough, sometimes.

Behind who?

This past year, teaching virtually, has been hard. If there’s a great way to teach a 12-year-old how to play the violin over Google Meet, I haven’t found it. We’re back in-person now, and it’s fantastic. I heard three boys giggling in the hallway today and it brought me so much joy.

People ask if kids are behind in learning after this year. Behind who? Behind what? Some arbitrary standard? There will be needs that arise as we attempt to return to something resembling normal. This coming year will be less about academic progress and more about mental health support. Hopefully we can provide it at the level needed.

Coal miner’s son

I was born and raised in Craig, in northwest Colorado. I’m the son of a coal miner. It’s hard to grow up in Moffat County and not be involved in the coal industry somehow. It’s strange to watch that die. Being removed from the town, it’s easier to not be angry about it. We talk about how it’s good to transition off of coal, but when I look at my hometown I see people my age working and not knowing what will happen to their families in five years. My friends and family are really badly affected.

The circles I run in politically in Denver, they don’t want to hear about the human toll of that transition. As a nation we need to plan for the end of the fossil fuel era, because even if we don’t ban it, it is a finite resource. The sooner we lay the groundwork for that change, the smoother it will go, but it has to be balanced with an acknowledgment of the human cost.

If you have suggestions for My Name Is, please contact David Gilbert at dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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