The life of a teacher can be summed up in one word: unpredictable. Even though instructors have their lessons planned for the year, they never know which way the wind will blow. It’s ever-changing. But for Amanda Cornish, Director of Bands at Bowen and Norton elementary schools, as well as Kammerer Middle School, the diversity of the job is a welcome challenge.
Amanda has been a band director for 16 years, gaining the respect of the Jefferson County Public School District, the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA), and her school colleagues. Her bands have received distinguished ratings at district assessments in sight-reading and stage performance. She has received many honors, including the 2019 University of Kentucky’s College of Education “A Teacher Who Made a Difference” award. Not only does she have the admiration of her peers, she is also loved by her students as she is more than just their teacher — she’s a counselor, a mentor and a trusted friend. Let’s meet this multi-talented rock star, Amanda Cornish, this week’s FACE of Louisville.
When did your interest in playing music begin?
I started in sixth grade. I began with the trumpet but tried to get out of playing in middle school because playing the trumpet hurt my head. The band director switched me to the euphonium, and I played all through high school at Western Hills in Frankfort. I joined the jazz band in my sophomore year and played trombone. I then became drum major in my senior year.
Was it always your goal to become a music teacher?
Not at first. After I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Kentucky for a business degree. I ended up completing the degree, but partway through I began to realize that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I had worked for state government in Frankfort, basically every summer since I was probably 17 or 18. It’s where my family worked, but I realized I wanted nothing to do with it. So, I became the oddball and went ahead and tacked on my music education degree and spent seven years at the University of Kentucky.
Was there a turning point in your life that made you switch from business to music?
The summer after my second year at UK I was asked to come back to Western Hills to help the new band director, Stephanie Scott, train the drum major for the next year. I was put on the band camp staff, and that is where the seed was planted. It was primarily seeing a woman in the director’s role. Up until that point I’d never seen a woman in that position because it had always been men as directors. I loved being in the band, but I just never saw myself in that role until I observed someone like myself doing that job.
What brought you to Louisville?
It was through my former high school guidance counselor. She’d moved to Louisville and was working as the Jefferson County Music Specialist. We met up by chance at a KMEA convention. I thought that when I left high school she was going to be a school guidance counselor the rest of her life, and she thought I had gone into business and didn’t realize I’d changed paths to be a music education major. When a position for a music teacher opened at Kammerer Middle School, she was kind enough to think of me and here I am, 16 years later, teaching at the same school where I started.
While working at Kammerer I also attended Indiana University Southeast to obtain my master’s degree, which is in secondary education. I spent about five years doing that while working because I didn’t want to lose my job at the school.
What memories do you have from your first day of teaching?
I was a fish out of water. Even though you go in and do your teaching observations in Lexington schools or student teach like I did at Franklin County High School, it’s a completely different population of kids. The diversion that my classes offered was eye-opening. But I knew I could do it, and after the first year I was hooked.
What do you enjoy about being with middle school students?
I love the population I teach, I love the kid group that I teach, and I love the age group that I teach. Getting them through those years in their lives takes patience and endurance, but those are some of the most formative years that they have. Sometimes they don’t even know who they were two days ago. They’re changing so rapidly, and you’re just along on that journey with them.
You also have student teachers come into your classroom. What is it like working with them?
I have had a student teacher in the class ever since I finished my master’s degree, since about 2011 or 2012. I love having a student teacher working with me. Every time they learn something new, I’m re-learning something. It’s a wheel of constant evolution with your own knowledge of education. A lot of times I’m learning things from them. It’s pretty cool.
Changing direction, do you have any hobbies?
I like throwing axes. I also like skydiving. I also like to do landscaping, and I like to golf.
Have you done any traveling?
I love to travel. I’ve been to the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Hawaii. I like tropical climates because they’re warm.
Is there anything about you that people would be surprised to learn?
I’m a thrill-seeker and an adrenaline junkie. Most people do not see that about me because I’m fairly quiet and tend to stay to myself, but then they find out that I really like to get that adrenaline rush.
Do you have any favorite restaurants?
I like Village Anchor, Wild Eggs, The Goat and Mesh.
Do you have any places in town where you like to hang out?
F45 Training in Crestwood, the waterfront, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park, and the Parklands of Floyds Fork
If you could live anywhere else besides Kentucky, where would that be?
I’d like to live in Hawaii.
Is there a piece of advice that you treasure?
Own your truth. It’s a huge life lesson on so many levels. The more you own it, the more you will gravitate to where you’re supposed to be in life.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My pets, music and teaching kids
Thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing your story with us! And thank you to Gretchen Bell for today’s photographs.
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