More than merely learning about music, Kiesha Daulton wants her students to feel a "real sense of belonging" at school.
"Music is a great too for making lasting friendships and learning how to work as a team," she said.
Now in her fifth year as an educator, Daulton was honored as the Missouri Outstanding Young Music Educator of the Year by her professional peers on Jan. 23 at Tan-Tar-A. Granted by the Missouri Music Educators Association, the award recognizes outstanding teaching by young music educators who have shown extraordinary promise, diligence and success. Winners exemplify the profession's highest standards of professionalism.
Traveling between the Simonsen 9th Grade Center and Jefferson City High School, Daulton teaches several classes, including Music Appreciation, 9th Grade Choir and Concert Choir. She also co-directs the J-City Riot Show Choir.
Compared to the average teacher's workload, her classes are huge; 78 students fill her room when she directs the Freshman Choir.
How does she handle such a large crowd?
"Somedays not as well as others," she quipped.
Although the ninth grade can be a hard age for students, music smoothes out the rough edges.
"I love sharing music with them. It's really personal. And you have to give a lot of yourself" to be successful, she said.
Being at the high school gives her a chance to see her former students blossom.
"It's nice to see them come here and grow up," she said.
A graduate of Missouri State University, Daulton originally wanted to work with elementary students. "I wasn't certain I wanted to do high school," she confessed. "But I'm glad I landed here."
Her favorite musical style is "pop acapella," or vocal arrangements of familiar, popular tunes sans instrumental accompaniment. Paradoxically, she's not a huge fan of karaoke, although she recognizes why it's fun for others.
"I guess I take it seriously," she said.
Currently the district's music program is growing in popularity.
"Numbers-wise, we're in a great place," she said. "In my first year with Show Choir, we struggled to find guys. Now we have 46 kids in the show choir."
Over the years, Daulton has cultivated a beautiful voice of her own, although she downplays her own talent, critiquing it as hoarse after days of constant singing alongside her students.
Daulton has always been an avid singer - in the shower, in the car, she doesn't care.
"We used to travel to Florida and I would sing all the way," she said. "And my mom has tons of videos she would love to embarrass me with."
In the afternoon at the high school, she team-teaches Concert Choir with Director of Vocal Music Beth Dampf, who recommended Daulton for the award.
Calling her a "wonderful asset to the JC music department," Dampf said Daulton is the "big sister to many young men and women."
"She is consistently one of the favorites amongst her colleagues and her choirs," Daulton said. "She brings her love of music to the classroom every day. She's a true professional who is constantly looking for new and exciting ways to engage student performers."