Rick McKee didn’t know what to make of the presence of his wife’s parents and his stepdaughter at the recent dedication of ’s new track.
But when Cobb County School District Superintendent started reading information that McKee specifically put on his district Teacher of the Year biography, he realized he had just . Cobb County has 69 elementary schools.
“The whole celebration was to do the track, but it was a whole ruse to announce me since they didn’t want anyone to know,” said McKee, who has been Acworth’s music specialist for seven years and has 26 years of music teaching experience.
“I’m really proud that the teachers here selected me to be Teacher of the Year for the school,” McKee continued. “It’s nice to get Acworth to shine because there’s some really fine teachers here. I get to go to county meetings with other music teachers and there are some just awesome teachers here.”
McKee, 56, teaches eight classes a day at Acworth and also teaches a chorus class on Wednesdays. His students learn how to sing and play various instruments, as well as about movement and learning how to create and read music.
“Being with the kids every day is a blast; you never know what they’re going to do,” said McKee, who earned his music master’s and education specialist degrees from the University of Georgia. “I bring people in to hear the students perform what they’re practicing in class and there’s just a magical thing that comes between the audience and the kids when they perform.”
McKee knows firsthand the joy of creating music. He hails from a musical family that moved frequently around the country when he was a child because his late father, Edgar Stanton McKee, was a career Army colonel.
As the fifth child of seven children, McKee started taking piano lessons in first grade. He later would play drums in a rock band in middle and high school, as well as tuba in his high school’s marching and concert bands. He also learned how to play the guitar and bass from his older brothers, Bill and Ted, who also played in a high school rock band.
McKee currently plays the drums weekly at a church in Cartersville and publishes his musical compositions through his own publishing company, Cosmic Possum Music. For the past five years, he’s also found the time to be an adjunct instructor at Kennesaw State University and Shorter University.
"I’ve done all kinds of stuff, rock, bluegrass, pit orchestra bands for high school musicals,” said McKee, who played 17 years in the Rome-based Clocktower Jazz Band.
Capturing Acworth’s Teacher of the Year honor marks the third time in McKee’s career that he has won such an honor. In 1989, he was Westside Elementary’s Teacher of the Year in Whitfield County and in 1992 he won the same award at Garden Lakes Elementary in Rome, Ga.
“I really want the students to have a lifelong love of music because music is around us every day. It makes us complete and tells us who we are,” said McKee, whose wife Angee is a retired music teacher. “It’s also great to have these kids that have these musical abilities they didn’t know they had and to see this ability awaken in them and the other kids realize, too, that something special is going on.”
Fourth-grade teacher Darryl Weathers has worked with McKee for at least five years and has been impressed by McKee’s dedication.
“It’s a pleasure and honor to work with Mr. McKee,” Weathers said. “He’s a very child-centered and dedicated educator.”
Although he hasn’t had any of his students become famous, McKee beamed when he talked about his Seattle niece, Bonnie McKee, and her songwriting success. Bonnie McKee, the daughter of his brother Bill McKee, was featured in the April 19 issue of Rolling Stone magazine for writing such hits as Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” and Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me.”
“She’s done really well,” he said of Bonnie McKee.
The same assessment could also be made of Rick McKee, who realizes his retirement looms in the future.
“I’m looking forward to retirement, but I’m not anxious to get there because I don’t want to miss what I’m doing,” he said.