As It Happens

Teacher in National Guard deployed for Biden inauguration teaches music remotely

Sgt. Jacob Kohut is a band teacher, and he's also in the U.S. National Guard, so when he was called up to Washington, D.C. ahead of president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday, he knew he wanted to keep teaching his students remotely.

Sgt. Jacob Kohut teaches band to elementary, middle school students from D.C. after being called up

Jacob Kohut is a member of the National Guard and he's also a band teacher. He was called up to Washington, D.C. this week, but has been doing classes with his students remotely. (Submitted by Jacob Kohut)

Sgt. Jacob Kohut is a band teacher, and he's also in the U.S. National Guard, so when he was called up to Washington, D.C. ahead of president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday, he knew he wanted to keep teaching his students remotely.

That's how he ended up playing a flute in the back of Humvee, teaching a class of grade eight students remotely.

"Any teacher out there ... listening knows that routine is key for success in any child," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

He said that the importance of maintaining that routine led him to coordinate with both his military bosses and his educational bosses to make remote teaching work, along with some assistance from other teachers.

As for the students, he says, "I think they thought it was very cool," to see him in uniform in the Humvee.

Kohut teaches at both Canterbury Woods Elementary School and Frost Middle School in Virginia, and has been in the military for more than a decade. He is a bandsman for the National Guard's 257th Army Band, where he plays the both the tenor and alto saxophone, as well as the bassoon. 

Jacob Kohut leads middle school students in playing Christmas carols for elementary school students, in pre-COVID times. (Submitted by Jacob Kohut)

One parent, with a daughter in grade six, emailed the principal of Canterbury Elementary to praise Kohut for his dedication to his work by teaching remotely.

The parent said in the email that after she talked to her children about Kohut's efforts, her son, in grade four, told her daughter now she could never miss a band class. 

Juggling jobs

About 25,000 members of the National Guard are expected to be in the U.S. capital for the inauguration, a heightened level of security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6. Five people died in the attack. 

Security concerns have led Biden to cancel a planned symbolic train ride to D.C., and the FBI is vetting National Guard troops coming to D.C. due to fears of an insider attack.

Kohut says he has talked with his students about the attack on the Capitol in his classes.

"This year has been a huge focus on social and emotional learning in all classrooms, especially any kind of an arts classroom," he said. "There's a huge spectrum, as you'd imagine, about the ... level of interest of ... those topics among young teenagers, but I think it's important that they engage at whatever level that they can, to understand those things."

Jacob Kohut is also a bandsman with the D.C. National Guard, and plays the saxophone and bassoon in the 275th Army band. (Submitted by Jacob Kohut)

Kohut says they've asked him a range of questions about his role, and have shared some of their feelings with him about his other job.

"I do imagine there's a spectrum of emotion, but the only ones that they relate to me were ones of support and thanks and honour. So I'm grateful that they've shared those and I just hope that they're not too fearful," he said.

Right now, Kohut says, there's no downtime, unless he's sleeping, and some days have stretched to 17 hours of work.

"We're doing the security detail and helping out with some logistics, although since I've arrived, my job has changed several times as more relief has come from other soldiers from other states," he said.

"After I'm off, I'm planning materials to teach the next day, and get up and teach when I can and then go back to duty," he said.

Biden, along with vice-president elect Kamala Harris, will be sworn in at noon ET on Wednesday.


Written by Andrea Bellemare with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Sarah Jackson.

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