Skip to Content

Teacher of the Week

On a daily basis, I am blown away by the work of educators the world over. Not only am I lucky enough to have crossed paths with inspirational teachers throughout my life but many of you share your stories of incredible people you’ve had the joy of encountering – people who are changing the world one student at a time. Every Thursday, I will share a new “Teacher of the Week” and invite you to submit your nominations.

Your Nominations

Lara Reem

Lara Reem is the kindest, most outgoing, and dedicated teacher I have ever gotten the chance to learn from. Every day she makes it a goal to encourage her students and helps make the most out of their rehearsal time. Lara Reem is more than a teacher, she is a mentor, a therapist, and a great friend. She will help lead the band when the director is gone, she takes time to listen when her students have an individual problem, and brightens the mood of the whole class every day. Mrs. Reem shares all ends of her knowledge of choral music, and after 25+ years of teaching, she decides to further her education by taking classes while teaching. I am a former student of Lara Reem. I have decided to not continue choir for other reasons, yet her wit, determination, and kindness inspires me all the time.

Joel Duarte

Mr. Duarte is such an amazing choir director. When he conducts the choir, he brings in a sense of magic into the music. Not only is he talented at music, but he is a father figure to the choir. He comes with us to camps and workshops, he comes and supports us at our outside events we have that are outside of school choir, and most of all, he talks to us whenever something is wrong in our lives. He is always there to tell us that it’s going to be okay and to keep thinking on the positive side of everything.

Mackenzie Malone

Ms. Malone is our new assistant choir director at CPHS (working with Lisa Holt)! She is so caring and works really hard for us and the choir program. She’s already connected with us and she has an extensive understanding to connect through music and teaches us to do the same. In addition to helping us prepare for TMEA, she is also teaching the first AP Music Theory class at our school!

Lisa S. Holt

Lisa Holt has worked so hard for our choir program. She’s brought us closer together and created such beautiful music. She even got us the status of an honor choir at TMEA! She has been running our wonderful choir program with no assistant director for four years and made a huge success out of it. She works so hard for our success and puts so much of her time and effort into the choir program.

Sutton M. Morgan

Sutton Morgan has been a JR. High Art Teacher in Utah for over 20 years. She has tirelessly advocated for the importance of art and meaning in public education in a state that struggles to recognize that public education is important to any informed society. Students turn to Sutton as she fosters an environment in her art room that welcomes diversity and individual identity, while grounded in accountability, so students who struggle to fit into structured systems like public school turn to her. Sutton plans curriculum around learning goals and skills rather than on predetermined tasks, so there is room for students to introduce their own creativity into learning. This year, Sutton’s school is under construction. She has invested countless personal hours of time and effort to keep her classroom welcoming to individuality and creativity. Sutton exemplifies what it means to be a public school teacher. Transparency: Sutton is my wife. But that is not why I nominate her.

Andrew Chiciak

I was in 7th grade and my band director, Andrew Chiciak, lamented he didn’t have any Caribbean music for the band to play for the school’s themed Spirit Week. Somehow we got to talking, and he led me through writing my first band arrangement at age 12. Hearing my peers play the notes I put on the page lit a spark in me, and I went on to write hundreds of band and choral arrangements and compositions during my high school years, and without that spark, I wouldn’t be a professional film and television composer and arranger today. Thanks, Mr. Chiciak.

Cami Clausen

Mrs. Clausen is the kindest most dedicated teacher anyone could ask for. When it comes to music she knows how to be patient, and kind when teaching. Along with the clever puns and light hearted music jokes, she always makes sure every single person knows not only how to read music and understand but also, how to perform. Lastly, she is the kindest human-being when you walk into her choir room she is always smiling with a bright smile and is willing to help anyone who needs it, she takes time out of her day to get to know every student and is willing to help them however she can. She is the most amazing teacher anyone could ask for she’s wise, selfless, and kind to everyone she meets and truly does make her program feel like a family. She is also so talented in a way to make everyone strive for greatness and has built such an amazing program which, is a safe place in our high school. I am so proud to be under her direction and I would not want to learn from any other Choral Director

Lauren Murphy

I’m nominating Lauren because in her comparably short five years of teaching, she’s become a true asset to our public middle school. She’s inserted herself on various committees to give voice to both traditional and non-traditional learners from the viewpoint of a creative arts educator. She’s also on our state general music board. She routinely goes above and beyond for our students – creating a safe space supported by admin for students to eat their lunch and decompress. It’s apparent in our school that not only is Lauren a rising top notch educator employing new and innovative ideas in the music classroom and choral rehearsal, but she values the voice of our students outside the music classroom. She’s a tireless advocate for the students, their music education and the profession.

Kim Ritzer

Mrs. Ritzer has been a dedicated musician from the time she started playing piano at 4 years old. As she grew she quickly realized that becoming a choir director was one of her passions in life. When she graduated high school she attended UNLV to study Secondary Music Education. When she graduated college she taught one year of middle school and moved up to high school at Green Valley High School when it opened in 1991. She has been at Green Valley HS for 28 years. Everyday Mrs. Ritzer instills a love for music, kindness, acceptance, and passion in her students. Although she has had many accolades, like 4 ACDA performances, singing with the Rolling Stones, and earning superior ratings wherever her choirs travel; she is the most humble and down to earth person you will meet. She has touched so many students and colleges lives. We want to thank her for bringing so much love and music into our lives.

Dr. J. Robert Spence

Dr. Spence is an associate professor of music at Elizabethtown College, as well as the director of instrumental studies. He conducts the Symphonic Band and the College-Community Orchestra. In 2017, he was awarded the Kreider Teaching Prize, which is given annually to an outstanding educator at the college. I had Dr. Spence in class during every semester of my college career. He is the prime example of a deeply caring and passionate educator. During his classes, his manner of speaking creates the feeling that he is speaking to each student individually, rather than addressing the group as a whole. He can often be found in his office, essentially giving private lessons to students from his instrumental methods classes. And to top it off, his dry humor is unmatched. Perhaps my favorite memory is his recent comment on my Facebook post, informing friends and family that I accepted a full-time teaching job: “Thank you for your contributions to my future Social Security checks…”

Marsha Core

Ms. Core has been teaching choir at Haverford High School in Havertown, PA for over 30 years. Ms. Core’s conducting is honest and her teaching is the perfect mix of challenging and encouraging. Students know and appreciate the hours upon hours she devotes to making the choral program strong. She continues to inspire students to continue their music education and even become music educators themselves. Ms. Core is incredible at her job, and I can’t imagine a more deserving teacher for this honor.

Shawn Humphries

Mr. Humphries has taught me the true meaning of discipline, leadership, and teamwork, whether that be in band or outside of the classroom. Through his excellent teaching and mentorship skills, he has been able to develope and change the lives of many of the students who have come through the band program. He’s always caring and fair in his ways of teaching, works to reveal the potential in his students, and strives for the betterment of them.

Miss. Kristen Diehl

Miss. Diehl is a teacher who is willing to go to extreme lengths to help her students become the musicians they want to be. Miss. Diehl was one of my biggest inspirations into becoming a music educator myself. My senior year in High School, she created an entirely new music theory class for me because I had completed everything that my High School had to offer, and wanted to push myself to the next level. She personally works to help each child grow. She works individually with each child to make sure that they reach the level of musicianship that they want to reach. Miss. Diehl was a huge impact on me, and is the reason that I became the musician that I am today.

Amy Neuner

Ms.Neuner is doing the impossible-Making high school enjoyable! Through all the drama, stress and hardship that high school brings, there is always her chorus class to look forward to. Ms.Neuner is willing to work with students at all skill levels and prioritizes effort over natural talent. The chorus room is a safe environment for all! Ms.Neuner is kind, talented, knowledgeable, encouraging, and goes above and beyond for her student and for that, deserves this nomination.

Joshua Markham

Mr. Markham is one of those teachers that you are excited to see every day in school and are sad to leave after you graduate. He is unbelievably talented in so many different ways, and he is the best musician I know. He’s not just a teacher to his students, but also a friend to many. Mr. Markham has a passion for music and his students, and that passion leaves a lasting impact on anyone who goes through his chorus program.

Anne Tomlinson

Anne Tomlinson is the artistic director emeritus of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, and in her time as the artistic director, she changed the lives of hundreds of children who had the joy of being in one of her ensembles. As an aspiring music educator and choral composer myself, I can say with full confidence that without her guidance, I wouldn’t have ended up pursuing music at all. So many of us who studied under her owe it to her for showing us the power of singing together to cross borders, language barriers, and ideological differences. I can think of no more important figure in my life as a musician, and even after graduating from LACC, I still find myself looking back on her rehearsals and learning something new every day. Thank you, Mrs. T.

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti

Dr. Chiaravalloti is the Director of Choral Activities at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Dr. C, as we call her, is one of those teachers that changes your life. She’s the standard by which you hold all other teachers, even though you know you’re never going to have a director quite like her again. She loves and cherishes music, but she loves and values her students even more. Dr. C supports each and every one of her students, and helps us to grow not only as musicians, but as confident, competent human beings. No teacher has ever changed my life quite the way Dr. C has.

Dr. Michael Martin

Dr. Michael Martin is the Director of Choral Activites at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He is the conductor of our women’s chorus, men’s chorus, Chamber Singers, orchestra, and our Chorale. He is also the professor over music education and fine arts management. His office is always open to any student and it is full of snacks, drinks, and coffee to help us get through the day. In his ensembles, he urges us to leave our baggage/ challenges in life at the door so that when we sing together all problems fade away. For at least the time we are together, music making is the only priority. Our touring group, the Chorale, is made up of mostly nonmusic majors who have had no formal training in music. He has molded our Chorale into a fabulous choir that has recently performed at Carnegie Hall and many basilicas in Italy including the Vatican. Dr. Martin provides many workshops around the state of NC for middle and high school students and their teachers.

Mr. Michael Short

For 30 plus years Mr. Short has been the choir director at Orange High School in O.C., Ca. He is also a church choir director, and director of the Orange Community Master Chorale – started when his high school graduates expressed an interest in continuing to sing with him. He instituted our annual Christmas Tree Lighting that features a 300-voice chorus and also a musical program at our annual ‘3rd of July’ celebration. He makes sure that his singers have opportunities to travel, taking them on East Coast tours, and to cathedrals and churches all over Europe. Having had two sons go through his program, I know for a fact that he is completely invested in every one of his students, and wants the very best for them.

Anthony Boldt

Mr. Boldt is an inspiring band director of the Kasson-Mantorville Senior High School, Minnesota. In his time as director, he has built one of the largest and best band programs to come out of the area and inspired students and others to take on other opportunities in music to instill a sort of code in students to take on more in order to create the best music student. This goes as far as reaching out in community bands, performing in ensembles and jazz bands, and even encouraging students to work in the pit for musicals. Students praise him as a man that cares for what he does and makes it seem like it’s very much in the hands of the students to make the best music possible. Our bands have increased performance abilities in competitions across the country and in contests within the state of Minnesota under his helm and with the increased performance ability came the increase of student numbers interested, growing from two bands to three in five years.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8

Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Claudio Silvestri

Claudio Silvestri

“Everyone is able to sing, there aren’t out of tune people”. – Claudio Silvestri

It’s been a privilege to read the stories of all those who contributed to nominated Maestro Silvestri.

Thank you, Claudio, for changing the world one student at a time.

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

Thank you to Peter Hollens for nominating his high school choir teacher, Russ Otte.

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

With an incredible 9 nominations received this week, Amanda Hanzlik – you are our Teacher of the Week.

Thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

For more than 40 years Gary Langford has dedicated his life to music and music education. He was my trumpet and jazz professor when I was a freshman at the University of Florida and through the years he has given so much to so many, in music and just by being a wonderful mentor and human. It was Gary’s honesty that convinced me to change my major from trumpet performance to journalism, and he always was straightforward and kind in his feedback and advice. I went on to have a successful 30-year career as a journalist but never stopped playing or loving the trumpet, jazz and music because of Gary’s undying enthusiasm and spirit. Ask anyone who has met him and they will say the same. Gary is an inspiration to all.

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi is one of the hardest working teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His dedication to his students and the art of Choral conducting is unparalleled. During my time working with Steve Durtschi I learned so much about musicality and appreciation for the benefit of hard work. Steve Durtschi has been teaching all Choral and AP Music Theory classes at Timpanogos High School since 2010. During his time there his choirs have achieved the highest ranks possible at festivals they’ve participated in.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Steve.

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

While Michelle is clearly an outstanding professional, mentor, musician and teacher, I believe she should be viewed foremost as an outstanding leader. After years of setting the standard as a “young” teacher, Michelle has now transitioned to a “seasoned veteran” who leads by example on a daily basis for not only her students but co-workers as well. Michelle’s unwavering approach to her daily tasks as an educator is a beacon of professionalism for all to see. She truly displays the philosophy that she is teaching young adults how to be better human beings through singing, as opposed to simply becoming a good musician. She runs three choirs, as well as numerous smaller chamber groups with over 200 students enrolled. It does not matter what level of performer you are, if you are willing to put the work in, she is willing to give her time to teach you. Truly inspirational!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Michelle.

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile teaches choir at Lowell Scott Middle School. She’s only in her second year of teaching and has already made such a difference in their music program and in the lives of her students. Her kids come to class excited to learn because she engages them with respect, humor, and love. They’re not just learning songs in Miss Mazile’s class; they’re learning how to be musicians. Parents, teachers, and students alike recognize how beautifully–and quickly–she’s transformed an “easy A” choir class into a high-quality music education. Emmanuella is an incredible, natural teacher and advocate for kids who are often navigating a tumultuous period of their lives. I met Emmanuella in college while we were both studying music. I’m so immensely proud of her and thankful to call her my best friend; she’s a daily source of inspiration for me and I’m absolutely thrilled for all of the students in the years to come who will get to learn music from Miss Mazile.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Emmanuella.

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

With his open heart and musicality, Rich has given back to the community. He conducts with the City of Angels Community Choirs in Granada Hills, CA. This community choir includes the Master Chorale, as well as Children’s Choir. His empathy and open arms invite you to join not only a group of singers, but a family – a humble family that creates wonderful music for the community. Rich has given the choir the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at a local hospital each year in December. He has also dedicated a concert for the children and has raised money for children’s scholarships. Rich has dedicated engraved hand bells of those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Richard.

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena is an outstanding choral educator, who’s breathed new life and meaning to students in Bridgeport CT’s inner city high school. After years of budget cuts, music is back: “On Friday mornings, students are serenaded by musical performances as they cue up to go through metal detectors. As people are coming in, security guards are bopping to the music as they check bags.” Sheena has just been awarded Connecticut Teacher of the Year for 2019.

Thank you, Sheena, for changing the world one student at a time.

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox, Music Director at Oak Knoll School, has been a part of the music world from her childhood, later studying at Baylor U, and teaching for 40+ years. She fosters a special choral community of singers from grades 7-12, a drama troop, full musical, masses, and two chamber choirs. Service is also one of the biggest aspects of OKS and Ms. Knox’s philosophy. Ms. Knox teaches us to be grateful for our school, one another, and music. She is passionate for the arts and knows the powers of choral music to heal and make community. Music brings her happiness and joy, thus bringing it to students. She aims to better us and implores students, who she calls her children, to be passionate about their dreams. Ms. Knox’s talents are countless: a stunning singer, pianist, and conductor who conducts from the piano bench, never missing a cue while playing beautifully. She is there for all of us. Her light is felt by all. “Ruby” is truly a valuable gem and shining star.

Thank you Ruby, for changing the world one student at a time.

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

I met Janwin at TMEA earlier this year and was blown away by the connection that she had with so many former-students across the time we spent together. It’s not a surprise that she’s been honored with the FISD “Making a Difference” Award and the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Janwin – thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Spence is an associate professor of music at Elizabethtown College, as well as the director of instrumental studies. He conducts the Symphonic Band and the College-Community Orchestra. In 2017, he was awarded the Kreider Teaching Prize, which is given annually to an outstanding educator at the college. I had Dr. Spence in class during every semester of my college career. He is the prime example of a deeply caring and passionate educator. During his classes, his manner of speaking creates the feeling that he is speaking to each student individually, rather than addressing the group as a whole. He can often be found in his office, essentially giving private lessons to students from his instrumental methods classes. And to top it off, his dry humor is unmatched. Perhaps my favorite memory is his recent comment on my Facebook post, informing friends and family that I accepted a full-time teaching job: “Thank you for your contributions to my future Social Security checks…”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Robert.

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

I would love to recommend Ms. Sandra Chandler, choral teacher and director at Alexander High School, Douglasville, Georgia for this honor. She is a splendid teacher, award winning in her district, and greatly loved by her students. She is a prime example of what ACDA stands for.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Sandra.

Thank you Tim Sharp, Executive Director of ACDA, for the nomination.

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Chiaravalloti is the Director of Choral Activities at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Dr. C, as we call her, is one of those teachers that changes your life. She’s the standard by which you hold all other teachers, even though you know you’re never going to have a director quite like her again. She loves and cherishes music, but she loves and values her students even more. Dr. C supports each and every one of her students, and helps us to grow not only as musicians, but as confident, competent human beings. No teacher has ever changed my life quite the way Dr. C has.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Charissa.

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

It was my honor to meet and work with Gregg Breinberg “Mr. B” and the incredible choir, PS22, (from Public School 22, Graniteville, Staten Island, New York) in 2000. Their continued success must surely come from Gregg’s vision, integrity, passion and dedication to young people and music. Each year he auditions children from 10 years old to join PS22 from the school’s wide cross-section of ethnic groups and socio-economic levels, encouraging them to sing as one and express themselves through music. The emotion is palpable, both listening to them and watching them. Mr. B and PS22 have had truly massive success on YouTube, appeared at the Oscars, the White House, on the Oprah Winfrey Show and with Katy Perry and more. Crucially, this team of engaging super-talented young people rehearse twice a week in term-time and sing at school and local events. Mr. B, you are an incredible force for good in an area that continues to face huge challenges.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Gregg.

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr has been a big part in making the dreams of thousands of aspiring sound engineers, including myself, come to life. He is a lecturer and a director at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Auckland Park, South Africa. He is a mentor to me and one of my biggest role models.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you George.

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

As the band director and head of the music department at Greenfield-Central High School, Mr. Wing built a phenomenal marching band and a spectacular concert band program from the ground up. Starting with a horn line that totaled fewer members than the current woodwind section, he pushed through adversity, giving every member the knowledge they needed to thrive, and continues to strive, not for trophies or medals, but for improvement and exceptional performance individually and as a group. He will be the first to admit that if there are points available, he wants them all. However, his desire for the Greenfield-Central Cougar Pride Marching Band to be the best it possibly can overrides his competitive nature, and he implores us to focus on how we improved over how we placed.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Chris.

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Broeker is the most loving and generous human being and an incredible Choral music educator. She teaches with such kindness, empathy and grace and is an inspiration to all of the students she comes into contact with. After two weeks of graduate conducting this summer, she gently reminded our class “You are enough. As you already are, you are enough.” Her belief in each of her students is so encouraging…and she is a brilliant musician to boot!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Angela.

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher, the brilliant Director of Choral Studies at the University of North Florida, has a tradition with her choir called “hot seat.” (That’s Dr. Tasher in the photo, second from left). She and her singers sit in a large circle surrounding a single empty chair. One by one a student comes to the center of the circle, sits down, and closes their eyes. As soon as they sit the people surrounding them gently bombard them with positive adjectives about their character. “Funny.” “Gracious.” “Generous.” “Confident.” “Beautiful.”

The person in the center can’t go anywhere – they must sit and listen to their friends and colleagues sending wave after wave of positive, specific reinforcement describing who they are and what they mean to the tribe. The overall effect was gorgeous, uplifting and deeply human, and as I tearfully told them afterwards in the middle of a big group hug, “This is the most choir thing EVER.”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Cara.