EAC Photo: From left, Gary Sorensen (EAC dean of students), Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G), Katherine Jamieson, and Keith Alexander (EAC special assistant to the president) meet prior to the Mister G workshop held at Eastern Arizona College.
By Kris McBride/EAC
THATCHER, Ariz. — Mister G – a Latin Grammy award-winning artist known for his catchy songs loved by families all over the world – conducted a teacher development workshop at EAC with 40 local educators. The workshop explored the impact of language, music, and movement in the classroom and included a toolkit to help educators incorporate musical techniques when teaching common core topics.
“Learning happens best when you’re having fun,” said Mister G, whose real name is Ben Gundersheimer. “Music transcends language, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and encourages kids’ natural curiosity.”
Throughout the workshop, Gundersheimer and his wife, manager, and co-producer, Katherine Jamieson, inspired the audience with their music and cross-culturally-produced videos like “The Bossy E,” “Chocolalala,” and “Senorita Mariposa.”
“This isn’t just silly music for the classroom,” said Carolyn Skiba, kindergarten teacher at Pima Elementary School. “It connects students with the world around them and helps them learn about so many important things.”
Educators were encouraged to integrate music into the classroom despite a lack of musical training or expensive resources. “If you don’t play an instrument, you can engage your students with movement or just getting them to clap their hands,” said Gundersheimer. “Remember that learning happens best when you’re having fun. Don’t be inhibited. You’re their role models. If you play music and have fun with your students, they will love it.”
The educators in attendance constantly referenced performances Gundersheimer and Jamieson gave earlier to local elementary school audiences at the David M. Player Center for the Arts. Antoinette Griffin, a community outreach coordinator with First Things First, recalled how one boy covered his ears with his hands at the first of the performance, but by the end was singing and dancing with the rest of the audience.
Jamieson admitted that no matter where she and Mister G perform – from India to London, or Mexico City to Chicago – children respond in similar ways. “Seeing how music transforms students across cultures has been an amazing and powerful experience for us,” said Jamieson. “Harnessing kids’ curiosity through music helps increase their observational power and what we need to do to protect the world around us.”
Mister G was brought to the Gila Valley by the Safford City – Graham County Library, Friends of the Safford Library, Gila Valley Arts Council, First Things First, Graham County Superintendent’s Office, Greenlee County Superintendent’s Office, the Flinn Foundation, United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties, and Eastern Arizona College.
“We are so grateful to those who brought Mister G to the Gila Valley,” said Susan Wood, vice president of academic and student affairs at EAC. “Programs like this give our students and the community access to in-person instruction from nationally recognized subject matter experts and truly helps them make a difference in their careers.”