With many good candidates to choose from, the staff at Destin Middle School recently named band teacher Patrick Carnahan as Teacher of the Year.
“We had a lot of folks in the running and we always do because we have such a fabulous staff,” said Destin Middle School Principal Grant Meyer.
But Carnahan, who is in his third year at the helm of the Marlin Band, caught the eyes of his fellow faculty members. Teacher of the Year is nominated and voted on by the staff each year.
“His peers are recognizing the effort, time and commitment he is putting into his classes,” Meyer said, noting he’s there before and after school.
“People are noticing the commitment he has to our kids and the program. He’s a team player, loves kids and loves band,” Meyer said.
Carnahan, 30, was surprised to receive the honor.
“I don’t seek those accolades, I do my job day to day,” he said. “But it feels amazing to know that the people I work with not only recognize what I do day in and day out, but they also have an appreciation for music education and appreciation for band ... because it’s not like that at every school.”
He explained that sometimes youth in band get a bad rep of being a “band nerd.”
“Thankfully that’s not a stigma at this school. The band is very much appreciated,” he said.
Destin Middle School has roughly 775 students and 150 of them are in the band. Included in that 150 is a beginner band, marching band and symphonic band.
“It’s a big organization. It’s amazing that my fellow teachers appreciate me ... and it’s nice to know they like me too,” he said.
Carnahan grew up in Okaloosa County where he went to Ruckel Middle and then to Niceville High. From there he went to LSU where he played in the band.
After graduating from LSU he worked as an assistant band director at Niceville High School for five years before getting the job at Destin Middle.
“For sure it was an adjustment,” Carnahan said going from the high school students to middle school. “In middle school you have to be very basic ... more nurturing to the younger kids.”
However, Carnahan said he loves the growth he gets to see with the middle school aged students.
“It’s so rewarding,” he said, to see what they can do in a short amount of time.
Band is open to students in fifth through eighth grade.
And for the most part the young students don’t know much when starting.
“I’m basically teaching them a new language. You work them up and eventually they can do stuff like that,” he said. “They’re sponges ... you show enthusiasm for what you are doing and they show enthusiasm right back.
“We have a lot of talented students here,” Carnahan added. “I’m really blessed to teach them. It’s a lot of fun.”
Not only does he teach the students, but he’s in charge of the upkeep of the instruments as well as keeping the music library and hundreds of pieces of music in order.
“There’s a lot of administrative duty as well as day to day teaching,” he said.
Carnahan, who has a performance background as well, likes to play as part of his teaching method. He explained he had a college mentor who always said that students learn by doing more than by talking.
So it’not unusal for Carnahan to pick up an instrument and model the music or the rhythm for the students during class.
Carnahan said he’s a low brass man, playing the baritone, trombone or tuba, but he enjoys all the instruments.
“I tell the kids there’s going to be a great moment for you on your instrument ... and there’s a place for you in the band no matter what instrument you choose,” he said. “I love being here and I’m very focused on what I’m doing right now.
“It’s an honor to work at Destin Middle School,” Carnahan added. “It’s an unbelievable school, the students and staff ... I’m just blessed to be a part of this place. And go Marlins.”