Non-traditional student returns to finish two degrees at the same time

  Wednesday, May 1, 2019 11:00 AM
  Academics, Alumni, News, Milestones, Arts & Entertainment

Pittsburg, KS

Chris Goddard

High school students who had PSU Music Education major Chris Goddard as a student teacher this semester were not surprised at all to see him performing from the roof of a downtown Pittsburg business Friday night during ArtWalk. 

They had arrived at the event wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Zero2Panic, the name of Goddard’s band, which plays a combination of tight horn licks, pulsing bass, funky guitar, and groovy drums. It has won first place awards and drops albums every few years. 

As Goddard unfurled a banner from the roof and began to sing, the students cheered. 

“He’s just so awesome,” said Brittney Bramblett, a saxophonist in the PHS Jazz Ensemble that Goddard directed alongside PHS instrumental music teacher Cooper Neil this semester. “He’s a great musician and a great teacher.” 

Goddard, who will graduate on May 10, is also unique. A 32-year-old non-traditional student who already holds one degree from PSU, he took a meandering path to return and will receive not one, but two more degrees at Commencement: his bachelor’s in music education and his master’s in music performance. 

“I came back, determined to make up for my previous mistakes in my educational past,” Goddard said. “Now, I’m graduating with two degrees.” 

Goddard joined his first band in fifth grade, supported and encouraged by his parents, who provided him private lessons. It was a campus visit and conversations with music faculty Robert Kehle and Doug Whitten, followed by a phone call from then-Department Chair Craig Fuchs the next day, that made him feel as if he belonged at PSU. 

He started school as a freshman music education major in 2004 but switched to performance after a year.  

“I just wanted to play my horn,” he said, “and I realized 18-year-old Chris wasn’t mature enough to be a teacher.”  

He graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in music performance and soon accepted an offer to be the instrumental music instructor at Coffeyville Community College. 

“I learned a lot in that job,” he said, “including that I didn’t know anything. Education is so much more than just having content knowledge. I wasn’t doing the school or the students any justice. I lacked classroom management and I lacked the soft skills." 

He left CCC for a series of jobs, including working at a bank, a pizza kitchen, a burger shop, a car detailer, and a freelance musician. They paid the bills — barely. He was happy performing with Zero2Panic, as well as Bill and Monica’s Excellent Adventure and Crossroads Jazz Orchestra. But he wasn’t satisfied.  

So, he returned to PSU again in Fall 2017 — this time to pursue what he had originally set out to do as a freshman.  

“I wanted to truly become a music educator,” he said. 

This year, he got to do just that: He student taught at Westside Elementary, where he helped to plan the second-grade music program. He student taught at Pittsburg High School, where he conducted everything from the wind ensemble to the basketball pep band. And this Fall, he’ll start a job as the newly-hired K-12 music teacher for St. Paul School District. 

“It’s a job that will challenge me, and at the same time will be very rewarding because I’ll get to see them grow,” he said. 

His wife, Amanda Damewood-Goddard, is a music educator and band director at Labette County, and also earned a bachelor’s in music education from PSU; they perform together often with PSU Jazz Ensemble, SEK Symphony Orchestra, and PSU Wind Ensemble. Soon, she plans to return to campus herself to begin work on a master’s in special education. 

“It actually was her who sat me down and told me what made me the happiest is what I should do,” Goddard said. “That’s always been teaching music, but I knew I had to do it the right way with the right education and the right knowledge. Pitt State gave me that. It feels really satisfying.” 

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