An Awesome Teacher and Human Being
For most, there is always that one teacher. That friend, coach or leader that is unforgettable: that mentor who not only touched lives but changed trajectories in such incredible ways.
For many Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) students, that influencer is not someone on TikTok or Instagram, but someone waving a baton who refers to his first love as “clarinet.”
Zac Fruits holds the official title of RCHS Director of Bands, but he is better known as human extraordinaire to his students. A senior student and band member, Reagan Kelley, summed it up simply by saying, “Mr. Fruits is an awesome teacher but most importantly an awesome human being.”
Fruits’ commute from home to work takes 50 minutes on a good day – a small glimpse into his passion and commitment to the path he has chosen to pursue. Fruits received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University then continued with his education by earning a masters from Colorado State University.
Beginning his teaching career in Pueblo, Fruits taught there for two years before moving up the road to Douglas County. He has been at RCHS for six years.
Fruits is proud to share that his band groups consistently earn “superior ratings” at festivals. The RCHS Symphonic Band took part in the Colorado Music Educator Association’s conference in January, performed at the Colorado Bandmasters Association’s (CBA) state festival in April and the American School Band Directors Association’s national conference in June.
The marching band is also a consistent state champion at CBA’s convention qualifying every year for the six years he has been in charge.
Awards are exciting, but it is building character that Fruits is striving for.
“It’s in high school where you see the transition from adolescents to young adults,” said Fruits. “You see them want to be the best they can be, and you know that as teachers and leaders, it is up to us to help them reach that potential. It is a powerful place to be, and a role that I do not take lightly.”
At a time, socially, where it seems the country and daily lives have become so separate from others, Fruits said band offers something different. By its very nature, it does not allow aloneness.
“Every kid depends on every other kid to be successful,” he added. “We can only succeed if all of us succeed together, so let us lift each other up.”
And they do. “The best part of being in the band is being a part of a caring family full of awesome people,” Kelley added. “Mr. Fruits sees me as a full person rather than just a student. When I’m having a rough day, he asks me about it, and I can tell he actually cares. He does not just care about my performance in the classroom.”
Fruits said his challenges do not come from the kids, but from outside factors. Funding is perennially an issue. Currently, parents and support groups get the kids to and from games, practices and competitions. Lack of funding means school transportation is not an option. And support staff, Fruits said, is vital. Having instrument specialists like wind instructors, brass instructors and percussion instructors are important to the full band experience.
Fruits underscored that what he needs most from his school community is “respect.”
“If the entire community could come together for all the kids: football, cheer, band, that would be awesome,” concluded Fruits. “The hours they [the band] put in are not necessarily recognized and that does not mean they have less heart; they are just less seen. A dream of mine would be for that to change.”
For more information, visit rockcanyonbands.org/fundraising.html.
By Karen Leigh; courtesy photos