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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

Lindsay Lowe

Ms. Lowe is the director of the choirs at Centennial High School. She has created an amazing choir and an amazing atmosphere. Choir, to me and so many others, has become a home, family, and a safe place, and that is because of her. She has improved our choir to the point of being nationally ranked, but for her, it is never about the score or the rankings, it’s about the music and about us. She teaches not only music but also life. And she has made choir an atmosphere that heals. She leads not only by stepping up but also by stepping back, and she trusts us as much as we trust her. She has given me a new perspective on life and taught me more than I ever thought I could learn in choir. I couldn’t ask for a better director or friend.

Mr. Andre Clark

Andre Clark came into the Westwood choir department for the 2017-2018 school year and did nothing short of utterly transform it. From a program that had no director and a little less then 90 students the summer before the year started, to a program with over 120 kids and two full time directors, he has revolutionized our choral scene. We’ve grown as singers, but also as a community. He came in and respected our traditions and helped us craft new ones, and hell he’s only been there one year, and he’s now head of the fine arts department. Supportive, encouraging, and exceptionally loving, Andre Clark is much more than just choir director. He is a father figure to many of his students and proves time & time again that he will always be there when we need him. As a recently graduated senior, Mr. Clark still inspires me daily and I cannot thank him enough for the way he has impacted my life.

Holly Bacha

Mrs. Bacha reminded all of us that music, isn’t just about singing with your voice. It’s about singing with passion and singing something you enjoy. She was an amazing teacher, but an even better friend. You could talk to her about personal troubles, worldy troubles, she was like everyones mom. She never let anyone stand in the way of her weirdness, she never cared what everyone thought about her. She always let her true self shine through to everyone else, and if I must say so, it was contagious. We would always leave class smiling wondering what the next class would hold. She’s so kind and always thought of all of us as her kids. She always made sure we were laughing when we left her class. She was an amazing teacher of music and always challenged us to push ourselves, to go outside the box and normality of ourselves.

Dr Jim Henry

I second the nomination of Jim Henry. I never sang in any organized group before joining the Ambassadors of Harmony–through his encouragement and perseverance, I have come to absolutely love both singing and performing before live audiences. Plus, he’s great at his day job, teaching music to college students. He travels the midwest, and really the world coaching choirs to be the best they can be. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Henry_(singer)

Dr. Stephen Bolster

Dr. “B”, as most students refer to him, is a professor in the Music Department at Berea College. In the past he has served as Department Chair and is very involved in the life and community of the college and the quaint, small town of Berea. He is a very passionate and devoted man to his family, his students and his life’s work. Music “moves” him and it is evident in the time and emotion he pours into his passion. He listens, advises and cares for his students and their life choices and pursuits. In many ways I have seen him as a father figure in my life from my early days at Berea and even now, 20+ years after graduating. I am able to see him when I return to the campus for Homecoming. He and his wife Sandy, an IT professor, also at Berea, will be retiring together this year after being a part of Berea life for almost 30 years. What an honor it would be for him to be named “Teacher of the Week” by Eric Whitacre!

Dr. Stephen C. Bolster

With his retirement eminent, I am reminded of what a amazing and beautiful person and teacher Dr. Bolster is. Like many college professors, he is well versed and in his craft and profession, both as a choral director and voice teacher, particularly in his knowledge of repertoire and talent for programming, but what makes him outstanding in my mind is the depth and breadth of his sheer passion for choral music and singing. His willingness to share his intense emotional and physical responses to music making are both heartwarming and inspiring, & his love for his students and the music seems unending.

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.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

This man is a force of nature. Based in Hannover, he has been involved in music at almost every level in Germany, in the classroom, on the stage, on committees, educating and creating new ensembles, taking them far and wide sharing culture and passion for music. His effusive charm sits alongside a determination to see each individual fulfil their dreams and potential.

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban or “Master Orbiwan” as we called him (if you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll get it,) was my high school choir teacher and has been one of the most influential people in my life and countless others. He taught me in chorus and music theory from 7th Grade through high school. I owe him an incredible gratitude for being one of the people to understand me for who I was and who broke my shell wide open and forced me to do things out of my comfort zone. He saw an awkward, shy 7th grader who wouldn’t speak up in class even if called on, and saw potential in him. His passion for choral music was also contagious. In his time in Sheldon, IA, he took our small choral program to unimaginable heights. At the height of the program, the jazz and show choirs got consistent 1st places and the concert choir was getting straight perfect scores at state contest. I am proud to say I am now a choral director myself and get to call him a colleague and a friend. He truly changed my life.

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

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

This man gave me a most precious gift. He helped me to rebuild my confidence and positivity which means more than I can say. He helped to change the colour and horizon of my world, both for my life and career. He let me know I am stronger than I can imagine. He generously shared his wisdoms and talents with great sense of humour and genuinely engaged the world through his golden voice and his golden heart. He inspired many people to become ‘a better version of themselves’. I will try to pass things I learned from him on to my students as well. Heartfelt thanks to Paul Phoenix – former King’s Singer and now Purple Vocals. You are an incredible man.

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

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

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

“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.