Between the busy nights performing as a professional jazz musician and the jam-packed days teaching elementary-school band students, Darren Motamedy said the latter has become the more challenging career.
But Motamedy, 49, must have it pretty well mastered to be named the Kent School District Teacher of the Year this year. He was surprised April 30 with the honor at Jenkins Creek Elementary School, one of the five schools at which he teaches.
“I’m pretty elated and pretty shocked still,” Motamedy said the day after he received the award. “There’s 1,700 teachers in (the district), and to be bestowed this honor is a huge deal. All 1,700 of them are teachers of the year in my opinion, but to be the one that was chosen is humbling.”
The Central Washington University graduate worked as a substitute in the district for about 20 years as a supplemental job to his longtime career as a professional musician. But he made education more of a main focus in 2006, signing on with the district full time. His busy schedule now includes teaching instrumental music at Emerald Park, Grass Lake, Jenkins Creek (which named him its Educator of the Year earlier last month), Park Orchard and Ridgewood elementary schools.
“I love teaching,” Motamedy said. “My focus has always been to be a professional, famous musician, but in the process of that I’ve taken the opportunity to continue teaching and the two have kind of gone hand in hand.”
The saxophone player has recorded nine original smooth-jazz albums to date, achieving national and worldwide status as an artist. Visit www.smoothjazz.com, and you’ll find him on the Top 50 Indie Chart at number six this week for his most recent album “Don’t Cha Know.”
He’s also listed at number 40 on the Web site’s general Top 50 chart, just below names like Alicia Keys and John Legend.
He said the performance-career road is rocky, but his biggest challenge now is teaching.
“The more that I teach, the more that I find it a very challenging career,” Motamedy said. “There’s always something different and there are different students every year. It’s a really evolving career.
“I think the thing I love the most about teaching is that you can really see how much you’re helping the kids. To see kids running from recess to the band room is pretty great.”