KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Music teacher Matt Ketteman's classroom at Longview Farm Elementary may feel a little different now — quieter, with fewer kids and more protocols. But his mission to spread joy is as loud as ever.
"'Cause if there's anything we all need a little bit of right now, it's a little bit of fun," Ketteman said.
When Ketteman won Teacher of the Year for the Lee's Summit R-7 School District, it also looked a little different. He found out while at home alone on a Zoom call.
Ketteman also earned recognition as one of seven finalists for the Missouri Teacher of the Year award. He had previously been named one of 15 semi-finalists.
Usually, as Teacher of the Year, he'd make a speech at the annual teacher's convocation, but that wasn't possible this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he knew he had to do something special.
He called up his colleagues and fellow members of a fun musical group, the LSR5 Band, for help.
"Hey, what do you guys think about putting a video together to bring everyone together in a digital way that is fun and exciting?" Ketteman asked them.
They all agreed. And they did not disappoint.
They created a music video using the song "Break My Stride," but changed the lyrics around a bit to reflect what's going on today with COVID-19 and schools.
The teachers dressed up in full '80s attire and wigs. They recorded each of their musical pieces on a green screen and another colleague edited it all together.
Ketteman's wife, Kim, makes an appearance in the video, too.
They sing, "Teaching today is just the strangest scene. A virus called corona kept us all working from home-a. So here's my tip to help your year start clean. When you're facing challenges that are unforeseen just say, ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down, oh no, I got to keep on moving."
"So that's what I focused on, just being positive and sending those encouraging, uh, dance moves out into the community," Ketteman said.
The video has been shared all around the district, the state, and the country.
"He has a lot of enthusiasm and a passion for teaching and so it sparked that and ignited that passion in everybody else as we got ready," Longview Farm Principal Kim Hassler said.
Ketteman has been teaching for 17 years. Right now, he teaches kindergarten through third-grade students in-person. Students in fourth through sixth grades are learning from home, but he helps them learn songs and how to keep rhythm by using their hands, or they make their own instruments.
His classroom is full of instruments on the floor and walls, along with fun learning stations. The kids can't share the instruments right now and they stand 6 feet apart, but they still are able to sing and dance in class.
"If you've never experienced a kindergartener singing and dancing with full unabashed excitement, then joy happens right here and I'm lucky enough to see it," Ketteman said.
When 41 Action News visited his class, Ketteman led a birthday song for one third-grade boy while playing the guitar and wearing a cheeseburger hat.
"My job is to bring that joy and reflect that back to them, and then they move on and do amazing things beyond what I can give them," Ketteman said.
Ketteman ends his music video by saying, "If you can just focus on making one thing better, then I promise we'll make it through."
He hopes his students, fellow teachers, and the community remember that forever.
This story was first reported by Sarah Plake at KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri.