In all the ways that matter

Choir director and former student teach alongside each other


Nick Perez

Assistant choir director Kelly D’Souza stands beside her former teacher and now coworker, head choir director Cathy Koziatek. D’Souza and Koziatek have worked together since 2017.

Around the corner from D-hall, a symphony is in the making. Sheet music scatters the front desk and the charcoal stands fill with students.

At 12:30 p.m., the “Cathy and Kelly Show” begins. 

In 2017, assistant choir director Kelly D’Souza joined her former high school teacher and head choir director Cathy Koziatek in the workforce. After five years of teaching side-by-side, the two have constructed a close friendship and unique classroom dynamic. 

“We’re in love with music,” Koziatek said. “Both of us found our singing talent at a young age, and it’s what we love. The human voice is such a personal thing. It’s cool that all these different sounds in choir can combine for a beautiful product.”

Koziatek grew up outside of Chicago and received her Bachelor of Music at the University of North Texas. Koziatek moved back to Illinois, but upon growing “homesick for Texas,” Koziatek moved to Dallas and taught ever since.  

“My degrees are in Music Performance,” Koziatek said. “I had always loved the idea of teaching but wanted to be an opera singer. I got to the point where I thought, ‘I just love teaching voice lessons,’ so I went back to school and got my teaching certification.”

D’Souza was born in Mumbai, India, and moved to Texas when she was in sixth grade. It was at Plano West Senior High School where D’Souza’s love of music blossomed under the guidance of Koziatek. 

“The best thing is that people come from different walks of life, and it’s not like you’re walking into a space and competing against each other,” D’Souza said. “You leave your baggage at the door and come together to create something beautiful.”

While searching for job opportunities after college in 2017, D’Souza found a position working alongside Koziatek. Since then, the student-teacher relationship has transformed into a workplace friendship.

“We’ve just become the best of friends,” Koziatek said. “There’s something to be said about speaking the same language. My high school choir director would use a lot of the same terminology that I use in my teaching, and I didn’t even realize it. Now as teachers, we already have that same language because she was my student.”

“The best thing is that people come from different walks of life, and it’s not like you’re walking into a space and competing against each other. You leave your baggage at the door and come together to create something beautiful.””

— Kelly D'Souza

D’Souza spends her mornings teaching seventh-grade and eighth-grade choir at the middle school while Koziatek teaches tenor bass, treble and acapella choir. Shortly after noon, Koziatek and D’Souza join to teach chorale and concert choir together. 

“Ms. Kozi and Ms. D’Souza have been a part of my life for so long, and I have always felt comfortable with them,” senior and choir council member Hope Corbitt said. “They know how to have fun but keep us focused in the classroom. They have made choir a safe space for so many people.”

Corbitt joined choir in third grade and is a current member of the chorale choir. 

“They have both taught me how to come out of my shell, musically speaking, when I was a freshman,” Corbitt said. “I would have never dreamed of auditioning for a solo because I was so afraid someone was going to judge me. Now I am so much more comfortable singing because of the environment they have created.”

Both teachers find they can be prime examples of good character for their students. D’Souza says that considering their age difference, she and Koziatek can teach their students how to “respect and find commonalities with older generations.”

“Especially for our female students, it’s important for them to see healthy female relationships,” Koziatek said. “I know that they enjoy our friendship because they see how a functional friendship works.”

With the recent High School Musical production ahead, Koziatek and D’Souza continue to work side-by-side with the choir in friendship and laughter. 

“Sometimes I’m sitting back watching Ms. D’souza teach, and she’s just doing an amazing job, and I’m so proud that she’s my product,” Koziatek said. “To see her teaching our students together is such a cool thing. Truly my very best student in all the ways that matter. “