A noteworthy director

Rath wins Canyon Junior High Teacher of the Year


Aryauna Thompson

Canyon Junior High band director Eric Rath conducts the junior high honors band.

He balances three schools, students ranging from 11-18 years old, millions of notes, hundreds of melodies and countless hours all for one purpose–his students. For his students, his work is their comfort. For himself, it is his passion and his identity.

Canyon Junior High band director Eric Rath was selected as Canyon Junior High’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. Although he is identified as the junior high band director, he also teaches at Canyon Intermediate and Canyon High School.

“I found out I received the award when there was a reception here for the entire faculty,” Rath said. “They revealed it when they opened the lid off the cake which said, ‘Congratulations Canyon Junior High band director Eric Rath.’ It was a paragraph’s worth of words, so we were all having to read it for a while, which was funny. But it was shown on a cake, which was a cool way to reveal it.”

Rath said receiving the award was both pleasing and overwhelming.

If you do your job well, it doesn’t really look like work went into your performance.

— Eric Rath, Canyon Junior High band director

“The other nominees are outstanding teachers who definitely deserved to receive the award as well,” Rath said. “I was overwhelmed to receive that award but also thankful, grateful and pleased–not pleased in an egotistical way, but anytime somebody sees what we do in the fine arts department as being worthy of that recognition, I feel like that’s a win for all fine arts teachers.”

Rath said receiving Teacher of the Year brought him an incredible sense of validation not only in his job, but for the entire fine arts department.

“It is sometimes an uphill battle when you teach in fine arts because if you do your job well, it doesn’t really look like work went into your performance,” Rath said. “You don’t see the steps and the academic rigor and student discipline. It’s like going to see a great movie–you don’t normally think about what preparation went into that movie; you just walk away having enjoyed the result. Receiving Teacher of the Year is an incredible way of validating what we do educationally to bring excellence into not only performing ensembles but also into the classrooms which allows those ensembles to be excellent.”

Rath said one special aspect of the band and fine arts programs is their direct correlation to other subjects.

Learning self-sufficiency and self efficiency carries over to your academic classes.

— Eric Rath, Canyon Junior High band director

“There is so much our students learn in fine arts that requires them to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-disciplined and requires them to own their education,” Rath said. “Even though you might be in a section with five other students performing the exact same part, you have no control over what anybody else does. Because of that, learning self-sufficiency and self efficiency carries over to your academic classes because you start to see that what you do directly affects the organization you are with.”

Rath said in addition to benefiting the students academically, fine arts programs encourage and enhance teamwork.

“Just yesterday in band, I asked the students, ‘When you take the STAAR test, who do your scores reflect?’ The kids instinctively pointed at themselves,” Rath said. “I said, ‘That’s right, and that’s the way it should be. But when you go to band contest or an athletic event, what you do affects you and it affects everybody.’ The greater we become disconnected through social media and the internet, the more making real differences and being able to participate in a team environment becomes critically important for developing strong citizens and strong adults as they enter the workforce.”

Rath said he teaches life lessons, skills and ethics first and foremost in his classroom.

I always feel like I’m teaching life, but my subject is band.”

— Eric Rath, Canyon Junior High band director

“None of us in any school subject are just teaching our subjects,” Rath said. “We are teaching our students to become better versions of previous generations and honestly, better versions of ourselves. They become strong citizens who have strong moral compasses and make good decisions. I always feel like I’m teaching life, but my subject is band. It’s pretty cool to think about the way we are able to influence and shape students going forward, and I think it’s a very high calling.”

Rath said he owes the credit for his award largely to his parents.

“I am incredibly blessed to have grown up in a strong Christian household with parents who taught me strong ethics and strong character,” Rath said. “They taught me the importance of positivity and the ability to see through tough times or situations. It is extremely helpful to stay positive with students, to be their champion, to be their advocate. I have wonderful parents to thank because that is something they brought me up to become.”

Rath said his work is very much his identity as a person.

“When you think about meeting somebody on an airplane or bumping into them on an elevator and trying to quickly figure out who they are and what they do, I always say two things: I am a junior high band director, and I write music,” Rath said. “I really feel like my job affects my personal life. I never turn off who I am as a band director when I go home. I’m always a teacher. My kids may not like that I’m a band director when I go home, but I’m always trying to teach them lessons about accountability and responsibility.”

Rath said receiving the award does not change any sense of pride he has for his students and his work.

“At the junior high level, you get to see them start and foster their introduction into what band really looks like,” Rath said. “Then you see them go off into high school and from that point, what they do takes flight. It’s really cool to see how our students develop in grades 6-12 and to see how I play an important role in their education. This sets them up for what you think a band student looks like and what you think a band program looks like.”

Rath said above all, his students are his first priority and his favorite part of his job.

“Standing in front of my band, working with students every single day and consistently building off of the last day’s rehearsal is the most fun I have with my job,” Rath said. “It always makes me excited to teach band. Here, we all speak the same language. We speak Canyon Junior High, Canyon High School, the Eagle way, and because of that we can just hit the ground running, and everyone can be completely and totally engaged.”