My name is Debbie Cartee, and I am the music teacher at Portal Elementary School, where I have taught for 16 years. I have been an educator for 29 years, serving previously in Evans County for eight years and Screven County for five years. I received my bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Georgia Southern University. I also earned my master’s in Reading and my doctorate in Curriculum Studies from GA Southern.
Three dynamics in my life greatly motivated me to become a teacher: my zeal for reading, my passion for music, and the joy I have in sharing both. I remember feeling the entire world had dropped in my lap when I learned to read my first vocabulary words. I have always been fascinated with making music. I sang and was involved in choirs all my childhood and well into adulthood. Fortunately for me, I was able to receive quality music education throughout my school years. I had several dedicated teachers who helped form my ideas about what I wanted to become, and I will be forever grateful to them.
I was the first in my extended family to attend college when I entered Tift College on a music scholarship. My plans were to prepare for a career in opera or American musical theatre, but before my sophomore year began, my family moved to Statesboro and this led to my transfer to Georgia Southern University.
It was during my first year there I discovered I loved teaching others as I worked with children’s choirs and daycare classes. I also began to appreciate that I had an ability to connect with children. These insights led me to realize that teaching and sharing my music is the profession that would genuinely feed my soul.
It is my greatest hope that each of my kids sense I trust and appreciate them as valuable human beings. I believe long after their school days are over, my students will remember they had an adult, one outside their family, who believed in them, and who will be a friend and mentor to them for as long as is possible. I can think of nothing of greater importance than this contribution I have made to our future.
I am committed to strengthening my school and the Portal community through school-community activities that encourage a partnership and cooperativeness among all in the district. Two annual musical events I lead are in conjunction with activities sponsored by the Portal Heritage Society: a musical program at the Catface Turpentine Festival and a winter musical program at the Portal Community Nativity. My students and I also produce an annual Veterans Day program for the school and community.
To be successful educators, we must appreciate that teaching is a vocation, a calling, and a labor of love. In my classroom I teach the whole child in an atmosphere that is safe, non-judgmental, challenging, nurturing and fun. I do my best to provide the scaffolding they need to build connections between what they already know and the new understandings we seek to create. I believe we are each born with our own music inside us; therefore, it is vital for children to be active participants to learn by hearing, reading, discussing and most importantly by making music.