Guest Speaker Alaskan Fiddling Poet Inspires Creativity with SAISD Students

The playful sound of fiddle strings and tapping of the bow on the instrument permeated Ms. Green’s art room as curious, engaged Lone Star Middle School eighth graders looked on. Mr. Ken Waldman, a former college professor with a talent for writing and who is known as the “Alaskan Fiddling Poet” visited Central High School and all three San Angelo ISD middle schools this week. Mr. Waldman is in San Angelo as part of his tour stop in the city with a performance at the San Angelo Performing Arts Center later this evening.

“Ken Waldman engaged our students with poetry, stories, music, and writing. He challenged the students to read, write, sing, perform, and engage in all the different ways they are smart. Reminding students that all of life’s experiences are valuable, Ken recommends we always keep pens, paper, and a flashlight handy. He said you never know when you might wake up at night with a genius idea and need to write it down!” said Lone Star Middle School Principal Amy Lemaster, “Mr. Waldman’s visit exceeded my expectations, and I am very grateful he was able to spend the day with our Lone Star Texans.”

Mr. Waldman has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been a visiting writer at nearly 100 colleges and universities and led writing workshops from Alaska to Maine. He spoke to students about creative writing and prompted them to ask questions. One Lone Star student inquired if he had any writing tips to which Mr. Waldman responded with a simple but inspiring list: do a lot of reading, always have pencils, pens and paper around, keep doing it and have fun with it. He also responded to students sharing his own motivational story of how he began writing, adventures including a plane crash survival story, and how he didn’t begin penning poetry until his thirties.

In addition to his fun fiddle-playing, another specialty of Mr.Waldman’s is acrostic poetry, or poems in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, message or the alphabet. Mid-class he asked one student her name and proceeded to write a poem with each letter of her name forming the first line of the poem, all the while emphasizing to the students how anyone can write and sometimes it can be a quick composition, while others take longer and more dedication. He shared how he has one novel that he started in 1989 and reworked in 1997 to the point he thought he had finished it, and how only now is the novel set to be published in 2022. 

Later in the class, Mr. Waldman encouraged students with a fun, collaborative activity showing how their own writing could be turned into a poem with a little imagination and creativity. In the activity, students were prompted to write down descriptions of sounds he played on the fiddle. Then a student was asked to share her various descriptions. He pointed out how repetition can be a stylistic tool to use for poetry, and added that love and death are often themes in writing. Mr. Waldman, with the permission of the student, had her choose love or death as a theme to which she chose love. He then began listing her descriptors with “Love is” before each, with a result that the descriptions turned into a poem much to the surprise of the class. 

San Angelo ISD is proud to partner with the San Angelo Performing Arts Center (SAPAC) to bring our students unique opportunities like this to cultivate their skills within our SAISD Learner Profile such as collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. Mr. Waldman will be accompanied by two musicians tonight where he will combine his Appalachian-style string-band music, original poetry, and Alaska-set storytelling for a performance uniquely his. For more information or to get tickets to the show visit www.sanangelopac.org.

“Working with SAPAC allows our students to have invaluable experiences like today’s classroom visit with Ken Waldman. He shared his love of writing, poetry and music and reminded us that poems can be anything and are actually quite easy to write. SAISD loves Ken Waldman,” said Director of Advanced Academics and Fine Arts Tiffany Huebner. To stay up-to-date on San Angelo ISD, please visit the SAISD website at www.saisd.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.